“Mutual aid is arguably as ancient as human culture; an intrinsic part of the small, communal societies universal to humanity’s ancient past. From the dawn of humanity, until far beyond the Invention of agriculture, humans were foragers, exchanging labor and resources for the benefit of groups and individuals alike.” – Wikipedia
Since the establishment of the Bolt Hostel just over a week ago, there have been many people that have arrived at the door to donate furniture, cloths, bed linin, volunteering their time, labour and skills. There has been a communal kitchen area/ TV area created, all by the donations of fridges, microwave, washing machine, cooker, table and chairs, sofa, TV and DVD player by people.
Many people from many different backgrounds have taken part in helping to establish and create the Bolt Hostel, and to bring it to this stage. Not all the volunteers are political or community activists. Most of the volunteers are ordinary people that have come together to help and give their time and energy, totally selflessly, not expecting any recognition or anything in return.
The Bolt project would not have gone this far without the housing and homeless groups working together and the project defiantly would not have got this far without the help and donations made by people. Not much money went into the Bolt, everything came from donations and from the good will of people.
On Saturday the 11th of July in the Bolt there was a work day. Volunteers arrived at the door from 8.30am and worked eagerly till past 7.30pm. There were activists of all shades and backgrounds, trades people and people that just wanted to help. What I noticed most of all was the enthusiasm to help the project.
There were electricians and carpenters using their skills to fix things that needed fixing. About 8 people spent the day painting the whole second floor, which includes 1 single bedroom, 1 double bedroom, a communal shower and toilet area and the stairwell leading up to the 3rd floor. (the paint, brush’s and rollers used were all donated). The buzz and the excitement of helping to create a living space to house homeless people including families helped the volunteers to plough through and work throughout the day.
Everyone chatted while working; no one knew each other but chatted like they were old friends. A team of volunteers made tea and coffee and distributed cups around throughout the day. People called in leaving sandwiches and food they made for the volunteers.
This was solidarity through direct action, people taking the steps themselves to create a better life for people in need of a home, people the volunteers more than likely don’t know or will ever meet. This was mutual aid, a term anarchists have rambled on so much about since Peter Kropotkin wrote his well-known book on the subject.
These people weren’t waiting any longer on the state to create change, or they weren’t waiting on the politicians that promise the sun, moon and the stars to be elected. There was a buzz in the air in the Bolt, a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm. This is mutual aid at its finest.
WORDS: Joe Conlon
When they announced the occupation of the hostel organisers said “‘Housing is a right’ are empty words in this society. We have reclaimed an abandoned homeless hostel, which Dublin City Council has left to rot for 3 years, in order to house families in need of emergency accomodation – its rightful purpose.
In a world of plenty, poverty is a crime. There are over 302,000 empty housing units in the south of Ireland, yet there are 5,000 people sleeping rough, [hidden homeless, and over 90,000 on the social housing waiting list. This is the absurd and cruel mathematics of capitalism.
Empty homes and homeless people – it’s not rocket science. Decent housing for all is very possible. But the state and capitalist class have proven their implaccable devotion to profit above all else. So, as it is the right of the needy to take what would naturally be theirs in a sane society, it is the duty of all conscientious people to help bridge this gap. Squatting is a short-term solution to a crisis which will always exist under this irrational economic system.
We will be accused of being thieves for obstructing a robbery. Private property is the greatest theft of all – making paupers despite prosperity, burglarising our futures, dreams, potentials, putting us at the service of a gilded elite which hoards without relent. Homelessness is theft. And what’s more, does this Council building not belong to the people? Have we not paid for it? Well, the people need homes without delay.
This is an example of people empowering themselves to combat the housing crisis – a non-party political project undertaken in people’s spare time with what little resources we had. Something the state could easily have done with its vast means, were it not too busy devising schemes for property developers to cash-in on our misery.
Indeed only ‘ordinary’ people banding together and taking direct action can make a better world, and only when we move past this antiquated social system will we be free. Until then, until a society where each person gives according to their ability, and receives according to need, we say: rob the robbers! Take what you need now!
Our demands are for nothing less than decent housing for all and an end to the dictatorship of the market. Here is the minimum of what we could do in the meantime:
1. No evictions. Families and individuals in their primary residences, be they social, private rental, or owned property, should not face eviction (unless excessive/extravagant, e.g. a mansion).
Housing based on Need
2. All housing should be of a quality and affordability so that all can access it and live with dignity and decency.
3. Housing provision should shift away from the market towards state, social, community, and non-market based provision.
4. Social Housing Should be built immediately to accommodate need.
5. Vacant property should be turned over based on need.
6. NAMA properties should be immediate turned over to provide homes and community and public spaces and facilities.
7. Tenants’ Protection. Rent Controls should immediately be implemented.
8. Tenants’ Protection. Tenants should have security of tenancy, no probation, and secure and quality conditions as right.
9. Tenants’ Protection. Landlords should not be able to reject rent allowance, housing assistant payment or any other rent support.
10. Tenants’ Protection. A Tenants’ Union should not only be recognised but actively encouraged as a means of protecting and organising tenants.
11. Squatting Rights. That there is a right to reclaim spaces for housing and community use when they have been empty for 6 months.
12. Squatting Rights. When reclaimed homes and spaces have been put to use for 3 years they should owned by those who have lived and worked them.
13. Homelessness. Homeless support funding should be increased and homeless support services should be an immediate rig
Housing as part of the Community
15. Homes exist in a community. Therefore the provision of housing must be met with adequate and accessible community resources, education and health, community facilities and spaces to live and enjoy recreation time. The needs of families and children should be particularly met along with those most vulnerable in society.ht not an emergency last hope
14. Homelessness support service should exist based on the needs of local areas and communities and not be centralised in large urban centres.