There is another Raise the Roof protest on Saturday, November 26th to demand homes for all. The march will begin at Parnell Square and make its way through Dublin on a Saturday afternoon when the streets will be full of Christmas shoppers. Weeks of relentless advertising have started, all designed to part people from their money at this, ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. But there’s nothing wonderful about it for the 11,000 people who are homeless, or for more than 3,000 children who will spend it in emergency accommodation. What kind of Christmas are they going to have?
It won’t even be a wonderful Christmas for many more people who have little spare money to be parted from, who are dependent on this week’s emergency social welfare payments which they will need to pay for essentials including food and heating as the cost of living continues to rise.
In addition to increased food and energy prices, the cost of housing – already a serious issue – has also risen. Private rents have gone up by 11.1% and mortgage interest payments have increased by 14.9% in the last year. Although a moratorium on evictions has delayed the immediate threat of eviction because of inability to pay rent, the unaffordability of the private rental sector leaves the unwelcome spectre of homelessness looming over people who currently have private rented accommodation. Even people with mortgages they could just about afford are now at risk, which will make their Christmas one of worry and stress.
We hear a lot about the spirit of Christmas, and its reputation as a time of generosity of spirit but does this actually translate into action? The shoppers on the streets next Saturday when the protest is happening will be buying presents for others, but does our generosity at Christmas extend beyond our own family and friends? Is it more important that we buy a gift set of bath oils for our sister-in-law (who probably has ten of them already) than to demand that those 11,000 people we don’t know and may never meet will have a home this Christmas? I don’t think it is.
So get out there and protest on Saturday 26th. Demand change, demand action, demand that something is done so that 3,000 children will have a home where Santa Claus can visit them this year. Our mindless consumption can wait for another week. The shops will still be there and those of us who have money to spend in them, are the lucky ones.
A lot of people don’t need Christmas to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. They just want it to not be a waking nightmare.