APOLLO HOUSE AND THE HOMELESSNESS CRISIS
Right around the time that Hot Press released its 2017 Annual, a group of activists did something that captured the spirt, and the frustration, of an entire country.
Conceived by the Home Sweet Home charity and various housing activists, artists and trade-unionists – Glen Hansard and Jim Sheridan were among some of the more high profile members – the occupation of the NAMA-owned Apollo House on Tara Street sought to put a roof over the head of homeless people in Dublin and spark a minor revolution.
But 28 days and dozens of national headlines later, the last remaining residents left the building in compliance with a court order. For many, this seemed to represent the absolute sorry state of affairs in Ireland – that government policy, and judicial review, would determine property to be worth more than the welfare of the most disadvantaged in society.
Where have we gotten in the months that followed?
Well, plans have been made for Apollo House to be demolished as part of a €50m development for Dublin city centre (redevelopment for who exactly?), at least one former resident of the occupation has died (Jack Wilson passed away in September), and, according to Focus Ireland, the total number of people homeless in Ireland has risen by 25% from September 2016 to September 2017.
And where’s the government? Why it’s less than 500 metres away from Tara Street in Leinster House! Or so we’ve been told. You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise based on how little they’ve done to address the housing/homeless crisis, especially in the past 12 months.
And yet… for all the doom and gloom, this occupation showed that ordinary citizens have the power to create change – even if for a brief time. We may need to learn that fact several times in the future before that change becomes long-lasting. But this proved to be, at the very least, an important start.