Occupation of the Bru Hostel


On Tuesday 10th of May eight homeless people (two women, one which was heavily pregnant) and six men with the support of An Spreach and housing activists occupied the Bru Aimsir homeless hostel on Dublin’s Thomas street. The hostel was opened in 2014 as a direct result of homeless man Jonathan Corrie dying, found frozen to death in a doorway just metres away from the Dail.The decision to occupy the hostel was made by the eight homeless people as they had been refused a bed in the hostel for that night, another 42 people were also refused a bed for the night. The beds were took away without warning. The beds were took away as part of the hostels “winding down” period towards its closure on the 29th of May. The building the hostel is in is owned by the government's Department of Communication.

When a person is homeless and is relying on hostels for a bed every single day the person will have to contact their local county council office to apply for a bed for the night. Some people are lucky enough to be given a few days or a few weeks placement in a hostel. This means they are given a bed for a few days or a few nights without having to call their local county council until their placement time is up.

On Tuesday evening as the rain was lashing down from the skies the homeless people and the housing activists managed to make their way into the Bru hostel occupying the entrance area just beside the dining area of the hostel. After about 30 minutes Gardai and Detectives arrived. The cops tried to get the occupiers to leave by using threats and bully tactics. “Where are we to go?” “Where are we meant to stay for the night?” were questions that were asked to the cops, which they had no really answers or a solution to.

After about 20 minutes the manager of Cross Care (the company that runs the hostel) came to talk to the homeless people. The manager said they could not stay in the hostel for the night, there was nothing he could do, his hands were tied he said. He then said he would call around other hostels and try get the eight people beds for the night. The eight demanded answers from him. They wanted to know why the beds were left unoccupied and why weren't they given any warning that they were refused beds in the Bru, all the while the hostel wasn't due to close for another few weeks? He said it wasn't his fault Cross Care wants the hostel to stay open, it is Dublin City Council that is closing the hostel and that the occupiers should take it up with the council. He went off to make the calls. When he came back he said he could get five people into Merchants Quay homeless hostel and the other three into Amien street homeless hostel.

These hostels being notoriously bad, the eight were reluctant of the offer. Also they were reluctant to take up the offer as they were worried they would to be in the same position the next day as they were in having to ring around hostels all day trying to get a bed for the night and probably not get a bed. Because of the occupation they were worried that they would be refused from the free phone number that is used to get a bed. The eight asked why couldn't they stay in the Bru hostel as there were 50 beds unoccupied? The Bru hostel is very clean and relaxed, it's a place any homeless person would be happy to stay the night in. Again the head claimed there was nothing that he could do, they could not stay there for the night. The head said that's all he could do for them, he then walked away.
One detective sneakily whispered into one of the homeless occupiers ear saying if they didn't accept the manager's offer everyone was going to be arrested and dragged out of the hostel. As that was going on another cop was saying to another homeless person if they didn't accept the manager's offer there was nothing the Garda could do, they could not arrest the occupiers. After a short while the cops left.

A CEO of Cross Care and the manager came back and said the occupiers could stay in the hostel for the night. Before this the manager was certain that no homeless person could stay in the hostel as his hands were tied. The homeless people slept in beds for the night while the housing activists stayed in the area where they were occupying.

The next morning the manager came back and said to the occupiers that an executive from Dublin City Council would be coming to the hostel to speak with them. The eight talked amongst themselves preparing the demands they wanted to make to the Dublin City Council official. Two points that were included in their demands were, they wanted a six month placement in a hostel and they wanted guarantees that they would not be penalised for their protest. After a few hours of waiting the Dublin City Council official arrived and had a meeting with the eight homeless people.
As the occupiers were inside the Bru Hostel homeless people and the Irish Housing Network had a protest march starting from outside the the hostel which started at 10am and then went on to the Dublin City Councils offices. The march was planned a few weeks before because the Bru hostel and Johns Lane hostel were being closed down. The homeless people demanding to know why these two hostels are being closed down by the council all the while the state is going through the worst housing and homeless crisis it has ever seen in its history.

The eight were given a written guarantee that they could stay in the Bru Hostel till at least the end of the month and after that they would be given a six month placement in a hostel, and they were also guaranteed there would not be repercussions for protesting.

The end result of the eight homeless people's occupation shows direct action can work. If these people did not take matters into their own hands they would have had to sleep out in the rain that tuesday night which would have been extremely dangerous for the pregnant woman and for one of the men that has problems with his lungs. The streets is no place for anyone with serious health conditions to sleep at night nor anyone for that matter. There has already been enough death on the streets.The council and government need to give answers on why they are closing these two hostels in Dublin?

The state need to give answers on: are they going to create two new hostels to replace the ones they are closing?

If the state are not going to replace the two hostels they are closing where do they expect the homeless people that need them will sleep at night?

Short video of the Occupation