by Carmel Ennis
In 1983, I spent a week in a Magdalene laundry in Dublin’s Sean Mc Dermott St as part of a research team uncovering hidden homelessness, especially among women. It was a new departure in common perceptions of homelessness which had until then equated homelessness with predominantly male rough sleepers.
It is 2023 and homelessness is now visible in all sectors of society and is currently one of the top political agendas in Ireland and elsewhere. Because of my history with the issue as well as my own personal experiences I was unsure whether to join this group (Creativity & Change) or not on our first weekend of application to practice.
Sometimes having too much history can narrow rather than broaden your perspective. Or make it more difficult to hold space for others. Such a huge topic, but once we landed on Dereliction as a focus, the sense of the architecture of the topic seemed to fall more into place somehow. Something that is visible and affects all of us and is telling in how we see our communities and our societies and how we value each other or not. And somewhere that it may be possible to intervene.
We are facing into a couple of weeks and months when the proposed lifting on the Ban on Eviction will begin to reverberate in our society. So whatever action we choose as our project has some timely relevance. And yet I find myself really wishing that I wasn’t forty years later once again looking at interventions with regard to housing and homelessness in Ireland.
Sometimes having too much history can narrow rather than broaden your perspective.
So I do what I always do in these times, I look sideways and try to see what other movements are occurring at the same time in other countries, in post communist countries like Hungary and Poland or in countries that have had periods of social democratic governments like Denmark or Holland.
And I try to encompass too that millions of people in other countries are being squeezed out of their homes and lands through climate events and political events, through illegal occupations and through land grabs.
Personally I had a period of a decade in my adult life where other housing forms and norms seemed possible through witnessing at first hand the housing policies and solutions of Denmark of the 80s and early 90s. And when I returned to Ireland I thought it only a matter of time before some socialisation of housing would also happen here. It almost became a political decision not to seek to become an owner occupier in the same way I chose not to pursue private health insurance.
However, the reality is that I have slipped into a position of hidden female homelessness. Occupying a non contract bound room in someone else’s house where I have no rights although there is lots of goodwill and a cheap rent.
Politically it is a terrible position to hold.
And yet I find myself really wishing that I wasn’t forty years later once again looking at interventions with regard to housing and homelessness in Ireland.
About Carmel Ennis
Carmel Ennis was a student of Creativity & Change course 2023 @ MTU. Carmel wrote this reflection from the first weekend of Application to Practice.