We’ve seen some amazing acts of kindness in Ireland lately, proving the old belief that when the Irish are suffering the most, they give the most to others.
From the bus driver who stopped on his route to give a homeless man a new warm winter coat, to the young man who saved a man’s life by simply asking “Are you ok?” the kindness of strangers in Ireland has always warmed our hearts and now Dublin city residents are showing their good and generous nature yet again but on a much larger scale.
Despite the claims of economic recovery, especially throughout the recent general election campaign, the level of homelessness throughout the country has reached record heights with whole families living in their cars and hundreds of others living on the streets, or in emergency housing.
In the first two months of 2016 alone, 208 families and 363 children became homeless in Ireland, with the government failing to make good on promises of housing.
At a recent meeting of Dublin City Council, however, an incredible 1,165 people pledged not only support and solidarity with those living on the capital’s streets but their time and energy, too.
Councillor Daithí Doolan, chair of the housing committee, revealed he had received an 800-strong petition from Dublin residents pledging to help turn empty buildings into safe homes.
Homeless women Erica Fleming began the petition, which was submitted on behalf of the social justice group Uplift. Housing campaigner Fleming has lead a campaign in recent months that highlights the plight of Ireland’s homeless by telling of the struggles of her own family.
Offering practical and physical assistance in making empty buildings suitable to house families, those who signed the petition offered everything from cleaning, tiling, painting, woodwork, electrical work and gardening.
"The petition is a commitment from over 834 Dublin residents [this figure has since risen] to help Dublin City Council turn vacant buildings in Dublin City into safe homes for homeless people," Councillor Doolan said.
"This is a very practical sign of solidarity from the good citizens of Dublin.
"Dublin faces an unprecedented housing crisis. Numbers forced into emergency accommodation are increasing on a daily basis."
The Councillor also applauded Uplift on the proactive manner in which they have attempted to combat the issue, promising to look into ways in which the residents could help in cleaning up houses.
"I want to applaud Uplift for taking the initiative,” he said.
“I fully understand that there may be technical difficulties, I will give this my full attention and I hope to turn this solidarity into action and to turn empties houses into homes."
A forum on housing and homelessness was held in Dublin on March 31 which was attended by Acting Ministers Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey as well as representatives from non-governmental and State organisations.
According to the Simon Communities in Ireland, there are currently 5,715 men, women and children in emergency accommodation, an increase of 49 per cent over the course of 2015. This number includes 1,830 children.