Housing a crisis for all
2017-10-15 08:00:54 -

Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker

I am walking home one wet evening; I let my eyes go shopping for 30 seconds as I walk past H&M but my mind is elsewhere. I am deep in thought, in a conversation with myself. I have lots of questions going in all directions in my head.


I like living in Dublin, but it has become incredibly expensive. Many times I have toyed with the idea of moving somewhere cheaper, where there are green spaces and perhaps the sea nearby, like Waterford or Donegal or West Cork or Mayo. These places seem to have little employment opportunities but I am still exploring these ideas as I ponder my high rent bill, excluding bills for broadband, TV, electricity and so on. I can hardly afford it, let alone save anything from my minimum wage employment.


Then I look at a friend who lives with us currently because she hasn’t been able to find a place she can afford. I’ve watched her in the last two years, and I could safely say our house has become one of her places of sanctuary. All of this time, she has always shared a room with one, two or three other people. 


She is one hardworking person; I find her inspirational in many ways. She has young children back home and keeps their photograph beside her pillow. The photograph has become a familiar part of the apartment. When I get up and go to the living room, it is one of the first things I when I cast my eyes on the sofa, which has been home to my friend on a number of occasions. It lights up the house and I am sure I’d notice if it wasn’t there.


My friend works hard as a carer. She cares for at least four elderly people who are located in different places. She is always trekking across the city between them, and always tries her best to leave very early in the morning and come back very late at night. All she uses the apartment for is basic shelter. At least she can make a hot meal when she has time, but essentially she just uses it as a place to lay her head after dark.


The sofa may be comfortable, but I know that this kind of life is not comfortable for her, or anyone in her situation. I know so from her look every time she comes back from endless house viewings. I know when I look at her whole life packed up in a suitcase. I know when I see that photograph beside her pillow why she is doing it. As I write I think of yesterday when she came back from another viewing and said: “I could hardly move in that basement room I viewed. It was already full. I’d have to crawl over my small bed to reach a shelf or another part of the room and I wouldn’t find a space to put my suitcase.”


I saw the sadness and despair in her eyes when she added that the person who she’d share the room with – not only did she have the room three quarters full with her own stuff and still expected a tenant, but she also told her that she did not want anyone spending the day at home. “What if I have a day off and need to rest?” she asked.

I could only think to myself, where are migrant voices in discussions on this housing crisis?

Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

TAGS : Housing Crisis Mariamm Bhaati
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