Roddy Doyle de­picts Ire­land's home­less cri­sis in new film Rosie

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Phoebe Green­wood in Dublin

Roddy Doyle hasn’t had a film out in al­most two decades as the writer of The Com­mit­ments, The Snap­per and Fam­ily has been fo­cus­ing on his nov­els. But two years ago, Ire­land’s lau­re­ate of work­ing class drama heard a home­less mother in Dublin be­ing in­ter­viewed on the ra­dio.

The woman was de­scrib­ing her day, which had been spent call­ing ho­tels to find a room for her part­ner and their five kids to spend the night. It was a process she re­peated ev­ery day.

Doyle put down the book he was work­ing on and im­me­di­ately started writ­ing a treat­ment for Rosie, which opens in the UK on Fri­day.

“She men­tioned that her part­ner had not been able to help her [look for a room] be­cause he was at work, and that re­ally made me think. This was a per­fectly func­tional work­ing class fam­ily do­ing what so­ci­ety would like them to do – he goes off to work and she looks af­ter the chil­dren in that tra­di­tional way. And yet the one thing miss­ing was a home,” Doyle told the Guardian.

Rosie tells the story of a young cou­ple and their four chil­dren forced out of their home when their land­lord de­cides to sell the prop­erty. Over 36 hours, we see Rosie glued to her phone, jug­gling nor­mal fam­ily life while try­ing to find a room to sleep in.

The film’s re­lease is timely. Ire­land is in the grip of a hous­ing cri­sis in which a grow­ing num­ber of lower in­come fam­i­lies are be­ing squeezed out of the pri­vate rental mar­ket into home­less­ness. The num­ber of fam­i­lies made newly home­less rose from 39 in Jan­uary 2017 to 113 in Au­gust. A to­tal of 1,698 fam­i­lies are now es­ti­mated to be liv­ing in emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion across the coun­try, the vast ma­jor­ity of which were ei­ther evicted by pri­vate land­lords or were un­able to af­ford a rent rise.

These fam­i­lies drop out of the pri­vate mar­ket into a pun­ish­ing cy­cle. Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties of­fer a sub­sidise­drent scheme, Hous­ing As­sisted Pay­ment, but to qual­ify for this, they are first asked to find a place to rent in a mar­ket where an acute prop­erty short­age is push­ing prices through the roof.

The ma­jor­ity of those who can’t find a home to rent and have no other op­tions are put up in ho­tels and hos­tels which are paid for by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

From teenage preg­nancy in Snap­per, to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in Fam­ily, Doyle’s films de­liver un­com­fort­able home truths to an Ir­ish au­di­ence. Rosie con­fronts a home­less­ness cri­sis that can be too eas­ily de­hu­man­ised by sta­tis­tics, said Doyle.

“There’s an anger to [the film] in­evitably, I sup­pose, be­cause I’d like to think that the peo­ple watch­ing it will get the slow re­al­i­sa­tion that they are not go­ing to get any­where, and that this is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing on a day-to-day ba­sis,” he said.

Fu­ture Ire­land – a charity work­ing to sup­port the home­less – says at least 100 fam­i­lies are left chas­ing ho­tel rooms on a nightly ba­sis. And that num­ber is grow­ing. The charity made 671 emer­gency one-night fam­ily place­ments in Jan­uary this year. By Septem­ber, that num­ber had more than dou­bled.

On the rare evenings the charity is un­able to find enough emer­gency beds, they say fam­i­lies are sent to sleep in po­lice sta­tions – de­spite gov­ern­ment de­nials.

Jolanta, 31, has three chil­dren. Last year, her land­lord sud­denly raised the rent on her flat from €650 to €800 a month, which she could barely af­ford. She fi­nally gave up the prop­erty in May but then found she wasn’t able to find any­where for less than €2,000 a month. She and her fam­ily were then sleep­ing on friends’ so­fas but three weeks ago she fi­nally ran out of op­tions.

“There’s no way I would ever imag­ine this could hap­pen to me,” Jolanta said, watch­ing her two el­dest chil­dren eat their free din­ner at the Fu­ture Ire­land cafe. “I feel like a fail­ure in front of the kids.”

Like ev­ery other fam­ily in the emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion cy­cle, Jolanta and her chil­dren have to wait un­til 8pm to be told where they are stay­ing that evening, and then must be out of that room by 10am the fol­low­ing morn­ing. In the hours be­tween, she kills time and keeps warm.

“I was in the park this week­end with a mother who had four chil­dren and was preg­nant with her fifth. All four kids were sick and sleep­ing on the bench, the el­dest had a high fever. The gov­ern­ment has to do some­thing about this,” she said.

On the in­ter­na­tional stage the Ir­ish gov­ern­ment has a pro­gres­sive im­age. In a his­tor­i­cally con­ser­va­tive Catholic coun­try, it has over­seen ref­er­enda that have le­galised gay mar­riage and abor­tion. But when it comes to the hous­ing cri­sis, the gov­ern­ment can ap­pear tone deaf to the pub­lic mood.

Last month, po­lice sent men in bal­a­clavas, thought to be with a pri­vate se­cu­rity firm, to forcibly evict hous­ing ac­tivists oc­cu­py­ing a boarded-up build­ing on North Fred­er­ick Street in Dublin. This heavy-handed treat­ment of pro­tes­tors served to gal­vanise pub­lic out­rage and last Wed­nes­day, 10,000 peo­ple marched through cen­tral Dublin to protest and de­mand the gov­ern­ment ad­dress the hous­ing cri­sis.

In Tues­day’s bud­get, the gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted €60m to pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional emer­gency home­less shel­ters for fam­i­lies. But Sis­ter Stanis­laus Kennedy, who founded and runs Fu­ture Ire­land, points out the bud­get made no pro­vi­sion for new pub­lic hous­ing projects, only a com­mit­ment to pour more money into an ex­pen­sive, bro­ken sys­tem.

“From your side of the Ir­ish Sea I’m sure the big thing about [prime min­is­ter] Leo Varad­kar is that he’s gay when ac­tu­ally it’s much more sig­nif­i­cant that he’s a Tory,” Doyle said. “It is ide­o­log­i­cal, this idea that you don’t in­ter­fere with the mar­ket.”

• Rosie is on gen­eral re­lease in the UK from 12 Oc­to­ber

‘There’s an anger to [the film] ... the peo­ple watch­ing it will get the slow re­al­i­sa­tion that this is hap­pen­ing on a day-to-day ba­sis,’ said RoddyDoyle.

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