This month last year, Jonathan Corrie
died in a doorstep just yards from the front door of our office.
In March, a wooden 'shelter pod' that
had been home to rough sleeper Columb Fogarty was destroyed by Dublin
City Council just hours after he opened up about his story.
Today, a High Court judge ruled that 40
homeless people currently occupying Apollo House must vacate the
property by January 11th.
It's fair to say that it's been a grim
and unrelenting year for Dublin's homeless population.
While Grafton Street's festive lights
may sparkle as bright as ever, the number of people sleeping under
them has increased by 50% in the past twelve months.
The latest reports suggest that there
are hundreds sleeping rough every night and thousands of men, women,
children and families are in emergency accommodation.
However, in a sea of hopelessness and despair, there was a glimmer of light last Thursday night when a group of ordinary citizens took matters into their own hands.
We just got the heating system working! First night was lights, then water last night, now the heat.. Christmas trees up too! @HSHIreland
— Glen Hansard (@Glen_Hansard) December 18, 2016
The Home Sweet Home movement reclaimed the NAMA-owned Apollo House on Tara Street and turned it from a derelict building to a symbol of solidarity.
And the people of Dublin backed them all the way.
From tool kits and mattresses to manpower and cash donations (€136K and counting), we banded together as a community to help those who need it most.
Apollo House may not have supplied all the beds that we need but it has managed to generate something far more powerful... hope.
Hope that the power doesn't lie solely within the walls of Leinster House; hope that the average people of Dublin can make a difference; hope that something is about to change.
— Ciarán Cuffe (@CiaranCuffe) December 21, 2016
Unfortunately, with any movement, there will always be naysayers.
These have ranged from the receivers and the courts trying to stop the occupation in its tracks, to sinister attempts to discredit the volunteers and create a 'us versus them' dynamic between Apollo House and others working against homelessness in Dublin.
Of course, the reality is that a rising tide raises all boats and an engaged community banding together for social justice can't be seen as anything but a step in the right direction.
Today's decision wasn't the ideal outcome for the residents of Tara Street but it's one small obstacle in the way of something much, much bigger.
At the very least, the Apollo House occupants will spend Christmas Day in a safe, nurturing environment. If that isn't considered a victory, I don't know what is.
— Paul Alwright (@Paul_Alwright) December 21, 2016
The Home Sweet Home initiative is the culmination of a feeling of unease in Dublin, a growing sense of frustration and a heightened awareness of the inequality around us.
It was sparked by a gnawing heartbreak, which grew as we watched more and more of our people forced to sleep on the streets.
How many of us have counted the number of people sleeping rough as we walk to work in the morning, wanting to help but not knowing where to start? Harbouring an urge to contribute but feeling as if we were too small and insignificant to have any real impact?
Apollo House is a internationally visible example of what an incredible impact we can make when we work together.
And it's going to take more than one court ruling to dampen the belief, desire and determination garnered over the past week.
Efforts have already begun to mobilise a mass protest for the day that the property is due to be vacated so the future of the site remains to be seen.
Is Apollo House alone going to solve the issue of homelessness in Dublin? Not on its own. But it's a damn good place to start.
The rest is up to us.
If you want to contribute to Home Sweet Home, you'll find the donation page below.
— HomeSweetHome (@HSHIreland) December 16, 2016