There is a woman who gets on the bus every morning who takes her six year old bespectacled son to school. She boards at the same stop each day, pushing the pram in which her infant daughter sleeps. The little boy seems very clean and neat and well spoken, but never smiles. The mother looks utterly worn out. The joys of motherhood, or so I thought. We are on the same bus each morning – getting the son to school on time coincides with my struggle to make it to the industrial wasteland of county Dublin. They disembark several stops before I do.
This morning just before they got off, an undernourished looking gentleman and his two young children descended from the upstairs deck of the bus. His children were also in their uniform, sporting frog shaped schoolbags.
He saw the mother and they greeted each other warmly.
‘Are you going to the march today?’ she asked.
‘I don’t think so. I’ve got to meet the social.’
‘Ah OK, good luck with that’ she said as she laughed.
‘If they try to make me go to a hostel, what’s going to happen to these?’ he said, pointing at the children. ‘Tusla want to take them from me.’ (Tusla is the child protection agency in Ireland.)
‘Fuckers, why are they doing that?’
‘School has reported that they have been absent for a week. Only I can’t get into a hub’
‘Oh I’m in a hub. They are complete shit. I mean it’s OK that you and I are being treated like crap, but it’s not fair on these ones’ she replied pointing at her children.
(Family hubs are emergency accommodation for homeless families to try to keep children out of the precarious night by night conditions, in hotels or B and B’s. I believe that the family gets medium-term, private sleeping space and a private bathroom and then shares common kitchen facilities and recreation area with other homeless families. There are plans to build 18 such hubs in Dublin to house over 600 homeless families. They have been criticised as being the new ‘mother and baby homes’ as they institutionalise young families into secure, prison style facilities).
It was quite chilling how matter of fact they both were about their circumstances. Then again their situation is becoming the new normal in 2018 Ireland – a country with 4000 homeless children. No wonder that six year old looks so perpetually worried.
At 12.30pm today there is a march from the Garden of Remembrance to Dail Eireann called Raise the Roof, to protest the government’s dismal failure to address the housing catastrophe engulfing Ireland. It’s not just extreme cases like the two families on the bus this morning. Buying a house is now out of reach for an entire generation of people. Thanks to the chronic shortage of housing it is quite commonplace to pay 60% of your wages on rental accommodation, ensuring a subsistence standard of living.
Direct action and housing occupation is becoming justifiable as the government refuses to address this crisis.
I am appalled at what Ireland is turning into. Thank goodness there seems to be a proper resistance to these appalling circumstances in the Take Back The City movement.
Raise the Rood people. I wish I could be there.