Housing activists in Dublin have been secretly taking over disused and abandoned government-owned properties in an effort to tackle the problem of homelessness in the capital.
Bolton House, a former hostel that has been vacant for three years, will soon be opened to house homeless families after it was reclaimed.
“We researched it and found it was owned by the council,” said Seamus Farrell, a teacher involved in the network.
“So we entered the building a few weeks ago. It was in very good condition, considering it’s been empty for three years. We knew with a bit of work it could be really nice.”
Plumbers and electricians have been in, on a voluntary basis, to ensure wiring is safe, to fix a leaking pipe and make sure taps and toilets are working.
There are six bedrooms over three floors, three bathrooms, a kitchen and a number of living areas. There is more communal space in an adjacent building, which was also part of the original Bolton House.
The stairs are carpeted and the rooms are clean, albeit in need of redecoration. Rooms are sparsely furnished but new curtains and bed linen have been donated.
The “liberation” of the building - renamed the Bolt Hostel - has been publicised on social media and the group had stalls on the street last weekend to tell the local community what they were doing.
“There has been an outpouring of support from people,” said Mr Farrell.
Homeless people and families have been in touch asking about moving in.
“We got a letter dropped in yesterday from a couple who have been living in a tent for 18 months.”
Among the nine groups involved are the North Dublin Bay Housing Crisis Committee, the Housing Action Network, Lending Hand and An Spreach, which means “Spark” in Irish.
“When you see so many buildings like this boarded up, and thousands of people who need a roof over their heads, direct action like this is common sense,” Mr Farrell added.
“There are a lot of Nama buildings that need to be reclaimed for the people, and there are a lot of people who support actions like this.”
Leading homeless campaigner, Father Peter McVerry, says the crisis is the worst he has ever seen it and he is warning that families will soon be living on the streets for the first time since the famine.
Father McVerry says the homeless figures are spiralling out of control, with 577 households joining “the Dublin social housing waiting list in the last two months. That is almost 20 houses per day coming saying ‘we don’t have suitable accommodation’
He says the current crisis is being felt hardest by families and they’re getting desperate.
“We have parents putting their children into care to prevent them sleeping on the streets with the parents,” he said.
“I know parents who have gone out to the airport to spend the night.
“I have one family who asked could they sleep in my car tonight because they had nowhere to go. I advised them to go out to the airport to be honest, at least it’s dry, it’s warm,” he added.