Last year, Glen Hansard – a renowned Irish singer-songwriter and Oscar winner – went onto his country’s biggest television show and announced that he was deliberately breaking the law.
“We are involved in an act of civil disobedience,” he told an applauding audience. That act was the occupation of a vacant government-owned building in the centre of the capital, Dublin. As Christmas approached, and the weather chilled, Hansard and a group of housing activists had decided they could no longer bear the sight of people sleeping on the streets.
They broke into the Apollo House office block and set about turning it into a homeless shelter. What they did caught the imagination in Ireland. People turned up at the building wanting to offer food and clothes, a mattress seller known locally as Mattress Mick provided bedding, and Hansard and other well-known musicians belted out protest songs from the roof.
Almost a year later, though, Hansard says things have deteriorated.
This month, it was reported that the number of homeless had passed 8,000 for the first time and almost 3,000 of that number were children. Housing charity Focus Ireland calls the figures staggering and says they must represent “a line in the sand” as campaigners pile pressure on the country’s new 38-year-old prime minister – or Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar.
So how, a year after the #homesweethome protests sparked such an outpouring of sympathy and emotion, are there now more people homeless? Why does the one of the richest countries in the world have such a crisis? And what needs to be done to tackle it? Hansard, Erica Fleming and Noel Rock TD join The Stream to discuss.
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