Violet Wilkin of Bray People Before Profit reports
On Thursday 5th of May 1916 the lie of the recovery became apparent in Bray when two men Tommy and Jay presented themselves as homeless to the council. Both men were previously living in the rented Brighton House men’s shelter which the council terminated at the end of March 2016.
According to the men they were given only 30 days official notice. Wicklow County Council when terminating their accommodation promised that all the remaining men would be accommodated under a new Homes First programme, but this never transpired, leaving six men were left out on the street when the building closed with no offers of accommodation from the council.
Two of the men are currently sleeping rough on the Bray beach, while two have sofa surfed with friends,; we are still not sure of the whereabouts of the remaining two. Tommy, along with three other men from the shelter, was housed by the council in a shared house owned by the Simon Community, for which they were paying €48 each per week.
The Simon Community were not happy that Tommy’s partner came to visit, and because of this, the key was taken off him, and he was made leave, without any notice. When you pay €48 per week rent you should have a right to allow your partner or friends across your door mat. Jay had his social welfare payments stopped, and was informed that the council contacted the Social Welfare department to say no one was living at Brighton House any longer.
As he had no permanent address, he could not collect his payment. The men had nowhere to go and no help from the council or the Simon Community so they took the two sleeping bags that the Simon community gave them and had no choice but to stage a peaceful sit in until their case was heard.
On Friday the council decided to ignore rather than help the homeless men and they closed the council to the public and took a long weekend for themselves. Their notice implied that the men were a public safety risk, again trying to vilify people who become homeless.
The situation became dire on Friday afternoon when Wicklow County Council screwed the widows shut so the people outside supporting could not give the men food. Later on Friday the men’s human rights were further denied when Security at the building were told to stop taking in water for the men.
It was now clear that Wicklow County Council intended to bring the men to a point of starvation and dehydration over the weekend. They were denied fresh air, water, food, and were not approached by any staff with any concerns about their situation. As the news of the deplorable actions of the Council spread on Saturday the men gained support and by Saturday night three tents were erected outside the Council Offices.
Supporters managed to come up with ways of keeping the men hydrated and somewhat nourished with tubes they passed through small gaps in the window. By Sunday night the council were becoming desperate to cover up their deplorable actions. They began to negotiate on Sunday night and suggested that the men go to Arklow for a night and assured them a meeting on Monday.
Unfortunately after days of being treated abominably by the council and as a result of previous broken promises all trust was lost. The council also refused to give any details in writing.
On Monday the Council relented, and both men were offered a hotel in Bray for a few nights with the view to finding permanent accommodation. Sadly at the moment the men still remain homeless and after their ordeal there is still no sign of accommodation. And the remaining men who never got any help are still sofa surfing and sleeping rough.
The council have since been spinning lies to the media and saying that the men refuse to “cooperate”. Both men have returned to Bray Council and have camped there every day since. The council has spared no expense in putting security on the door and refusing the men entry to the council.
It is in fact the council who are refusing to engage.
While this still leaves our two homeless men, Tommy and Jay, in urgent need of housing there are a couple of small positives that can be taken from what has occurred. The first is that people power is the only way to ensure that the voices of vulnerable people are heard. Second is that hopefully more people will have the courage to take a direct action approach like our two heroic homeless men in Bray.
It is encouraging to hear that a day after this debacle, former residents occupied the Bru hostel on Thomas Street on 11 May. They are fighting to stop the closure of the 100 bed facility which will have a disastrous impact on the current homeless crisis in the country. They will protest at the hostel and at the council offices in Fishamble Street to keep the pressure on and make their case known.
SWP members as part of the People Before Profit Alliance have been at the heart of helping the housing fightback both in Bray and in the rest of the country. We urge all our supporters to come to and build the national housing protest on May 28th at 2pm from Custom House Quay.
People power was able to force a change of government policy on the water charges and we can do the same if we mobilise everyone effected by the housing crisis- homeless people, those on waiting lists and people in mortgage arrears.
We need to take market out of housing and put people before the profits of the developers and landlords.