The takeover and conversion of an unused government-owned Dublin office building into a homeless shelter is “the most revolutionary event to have occurred in that city since 1916,” writes Fionnula Flanagan.
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Hollywood legend and Irish America Hall of Famer Fionnula Flanagan, known for her movies like Waking Ned Devine, The Others, and Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, is seeking support for Home Sweet Home (HSH), a group dedicated to housing the homeless in Dublin that took over Apollo House, a government-owned office building, mid-December and converted it to a homeless shelter.
According to the organization’s GoFundMe page, every night upwards of 260 people sleep on the streets of Dublin because due to lack of adequate shelter space or hotel accommodation. This figure does not include those without a permanent address or who spend the nights in the city’s homeless shelters. According to figures released last November by the Irish Department of Housing, there are a record 6,709 homeless people living in Ireland. “The figure comprises 4,283 adults and 2,426 children. The figures include 1,173 families,” the report notes, with the vast majority living in Dublin.
More arrestingly, the life expectancy for a homeless woman is 38, the same as during the Great Hunger.
“[Home Sweet Home] came into being as a response to the 5,000 homeless – some 1,400 of them children – living, barely subsisting, in Dublin. This, while dozens of viable Irish Government owned buildings stand empty in the city,” Flanagan writes in an appeal to members of the Irish and Irish American community. “The government can easily, with the stroke of a pen, and by invoking Article 14 of the NAMA Act, which requires NAMA to make a social contribution, legally make these spaces available for conversion to house Dublin’s homeless families.”
“Apollo House became a necessary intervention by people who felt morally obliged to offer dignity and support to people who are homeless who were sleeping rough in Dublin,” an HSH report on emergency housing published in December states.
Apollo House has been vacant for six years according to HSH and is located just north of Trinity College in Dublin’s city center. Apollo House is owned by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), which also owns numerous vacant buildings in the city, which Home Sweet Home claims should be used to alleviate Dublin’s growing homeless population, particularly in the winter months. Since the December 15 takeover, up to 40 people have been housed at Apollo House each night, with many making their way to the city’s shelters and their places being filled by whose on the house’s long waiting list.
Home Sweet Home was co-founded by activist and trade unionist Brendan Ogle and is led by film directors Jim Sheridan and Terry McMahon and includes ambassadors like Glen Hansard, Saoirse Ronan, and Hozier, have been providing beds for up to 40 Dublin homeless each night.
Shortly before Christmas, the Irish High Court ruled that the activists could remain at Apollo House until January 11. In Flanagan’s letter, she urges the public to urge the Irish government to convert its vacant NAMA buildings to accommodation for the homeless.
“Now we need to show them support. The Irish Government could, literally with the stroke of a pen, legitimize the action, save the 19 families from eviction, and pave the way for providing such homes in the dozens of similarly government held vacant NAMA buildings,” she says, asking people to record a video message and send it directly to organizer and film director Terry McMahon.
Home Sweet Home’s full report and goals can be viewed here.
The full text of the letter is below.
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My Dear Friends,
For those of you who do not know, in the past few weeks a new organization, HOME SWEET HOME, was formed by Dubliners, many of them artists, led by film directors Jim Sheridan and Terry McMahon, with brilliant hands-on support from, among others, Glen Hansard, Saoirse Ronan, Hozier, Kodaline, and with direct, magnificent, involvement of the unions via Brenden Ogle.
It came into being as a response to the 50,000 homeless – some 5,000 of them children – living, barely subsisting, in Dublin. This, while dozens of viable Irish Government owned buildings stand empty in the city.
The government can easily, with the stroke of a pen, and by invoking Article 14 of the NAMA Act, which requires NAMA to make a social contribution, legally make these spaces available for conversion to house Dublin’s homeless families.
HOME SWEET HOME took over one of these buildings in the center city, and with a few dozen volunteer carpenters, plumbers and electricians, turned it into habitable apartments. They moved in 19 homeless families. Who are still there. They didn’t ask anyone’s permission or wait for a bureaucracy to sanction the action. They just did it.
It’s the most revolutionary event to have occurred in that city since 1916.
Now we need to show them support. The Irish Government could, literally with the stroke of a pen, legitimize the action, save the 19 families from eviction, and pave the way for providing such homes in the dozens of similarly government held vacant NAMA buildings.
Here’s what HOME SWEET HOME is asking by way of support from members of the diaspora and from all who are friends of Ireland. It’s a simple video petition and has already been completed by several thousand people.
Here’s what you do:
- Pick up your cell phone (I know it’s never far away!)
- Turn the camera to video and record the following message to Dublin’s political leadership:
“My name is _______. Why are people sleeping outside Ireland’s state owned, vacant buildings when this can be fixed with the stroke of a pen? I am proud to support HOME SWEET HOME.”
- E-mail the video to Terry McMahon.
PLEASE DO THS NOW – THEY NEED TO GET IT ASAP-BY SUNDAY, JANUARY 8TH AT THE LATEST
DON’T WAIT TO COMB YOUR HAIR – YOUR HAIR IS GRAND
YOUR FACE HAS NEVER LOOKED MORE PERFECT – YOU ARE NOT FAT!
AND WHAT YOU’RE WEARING LOOKS FABULOUS
Sleep soundly tonight. You’ve done a wonderful thing. You’ve brought a family in from the cold.
With love and admiration,