Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walking We Ask Questions - Sorcha Kenny & Live Collision, ABSOLUT Fringe 2012

Photograph by Emma Hannon
Part I: Sunday, 9th September 2012, Dublin

We meet in the Square, Temple Bar, Sunday morning, early, early enough, actually it's twelve o clock, but that day, it was early for me.
I arrive, coffee in hand and meet my Mother, waiting patiently making new friends. 

We begin with a silent protest, facilitated by artist James O'hAodhaholding blank white placards, we walk together through the streets of Dublin, through this our city, through lane ways and side streets, through walk ways and across roads passing gardai who don't interfere, who don't seem to even notice us.  We walk together silently, holding a non prescribed sign, the space to think what our individual protest might be, should we choose to fill in the blanks, and yet we are together, collectively, a new community on the streets of Dublin on this fresh Sunday morning.

Walking together, thinking as individuals, the space for both.

We continue to the open door of artist Michelle Brown's home, there's tea brewing (coffee too), food on the table and quickly a queue for the toilet!  She opens her home to us, this new community, who are embarking on a seven hour adventure through the city together.  We are talking again, we speak together of the initial phase, the responses we met with, the questions in people's eyes as we passed, the questions articulated that we answered with gesture.

I leave this home with a challenge, and a partner to complete it with.  A set of instructions, dense in detail, turn right at the gate and take ten steps...continuing the journey through the city as a 2 year old child would, swinging around lamp-posts, stopping to look at dog excrement, squashing my face against a bus stop, hugging a stranger, feeling the bumps on the pavement beneath my feet, skipping.  Skipping was my favorite part.  Walking through the city is forever changed for me.

We wait inside the entrance of St. Patrick's Park for the rest of the two year olds to catch up, and we talk of our experience, laugh at ourselves within the challenge, and there's a sense of fun and adventure, and excitement at what is yet to come.  Gathered together in a public space, there's discussion of the physical challenges too, the tired legs, but we walk on, now lead by our host, Sorcha Kenny towards Kilmainham.

Across the road and under the arch, off Patrick Street, an amazing surprise, a choir of voices greet us, and we stand together around the walls and watch and listen, smiling across at each other at this amazingly amazing event, they are singing under the arch, and passers by stop and wait and listen, cyclists dismount and listen with us too.  It's an awesome sound, the voices together in a walk through space, the voices raised in praise of their own God, but we can share in their sincerity, in the intention to worship as they feel.

Photograph from Growing up in the Liberties (Facebook)

We walk on, we walk faster because we're a little behind schedule and there are more artists, more surprises waiting to be encountered, waiting to unfold.  We walk and talk through Dublin 8, the Liberties, we stop in a square of houses, opposite where I went to secondary school, it used to be the Holy Faith, now the Liberties College and hear a poem. In Grey Square we stop at the statue of Jesus Christ and speak in solidarity with Pussy Riot, call and response, collectively raising our voices in support.

We continue, and arrive at the home of another artist, Lian Bell who opens her door and makes pots of tea, black and herbal, biscuits on plates, and another queue for the toilet.  I sit outside on the footpath opposite and watch the group, the choir, on bicycles, have joined us, small groups discuss while sipping tea, and I speak with the Blow magazine photographer who is documenting the day. 

And sitting there, I become aware of the amazingness of total strangers coming together and walking, just walking through this our city, together.  

And on, through Rialto, up the LUAS line, confronting the right to walk in public space, call and response, revolutionary lyrics, laughter, fun, walking veering towards marching.  To Kilmainham Gaol, a little late now to meet our next artist facilitator Megan Kennedy (Junk Ensemble) who guides us down the hill and into the Irish National War Memorial Park at Islandbridge.  She leads us running diagonally from tree to tree stretching out along the path, and its fun and frivolous and we are all doing it together, we the strangers who only met this morning, now engaged in a collective action of joy.

And here I had to leave the walk, reluctantly, and I watch the collective gathered walkers bounce from tree to tree off into the distance.  

A beautiful day, a beautiful experience, thank you Sorcha Kenny.

Part IISaturday, 15th September 2012: Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2

Today is about talking about walking, and the relationship to the city.  Sorcha Kenny & Live Collision have invited a series of speakers to present lectures and performance lectures inspired by this project and this quotation by art activist John Jordan:

The greatest medium is the present. As Joseph Beuys said, “Don’t wait to begin, use what you have.” Start where you are at. Hell, you’ve already started. What are the tools and tendencies around you? Inside you, beside you? You could start with your own body. It’s the eco-system you know best, the source of most of your knowledge and dreams. The art of social movements has often begun with collective bodily performances as its first, most abundant resource.

The speakers are: 

Nigel Rolfe (via skype) - Performance Artist and Visiting Professor in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art in London; David Landy - Assistant Professor on the MPhil in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict, Trinity College Dublin; 
Owen O'Doherty - PIVOT Dublin, a Dublin City Council initiative devised and co-ordinated by Dublin City Architects; 
Laurence Davis - Lecturer in Government at University College Cork, Ireland, a Series Editor of the Contemporary Anarchist Studies book series published by Continuum Press, and a founding member of the Anarchist Studies Network, he has written numerous articles and book chapters on anarchist and utopian political thought, democratic and revolutionary theory and practice, and the politics of art, work, and love; and me, presenting the very beginnings of this project HERE & NOW.

It's a fascinating afternoon, talking about protest, about finding ways to make protest engaging, about the lack of protest in Ireland and finding alternative means to do so that would engage the people, later the discussion raises the issue of why we as a nation don't protest more and the problem of who you stand behind, who represents you, or if we can find a way to protest collectively but as individuals, and I am reminded of the silent white placard protest of the Sunday before 
 facilitated by artist James O'hAodha.  I learn about the city, the mapping of this our city across the decades and learn one of my new favorite facts, that the best way to work with the maps and track the development of the city over time was to use the paths created by the people walking, these were the constants, even the underground rivers changed course.  And I am struck forever by the image of Nigel Rolfe lying in the bog at the very centre, the actual centre of Ireland, for a whole day he lay there, beautiful.
I'm honored and delighted to be asked to present the very beginnings of HERE & NOW at this event, it's a simple performance lecture and you can see it here, the beginnings, once again, thank you Sorcha Kenny.

Part II of Walking We Ask Questions will be podcast next week on the website:  

HERE & NOW (beginnings)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Notes on Focus Ireland's "Holding On To A Place You Can Call Home" Conference

26th September 2012: Aviva Stadium, Dublin

([...] = personal notes)


Conference Notes:

10 years since the publication of the government's "National Strategy for the Prevention of Homelessness", 7 years since the Homelessness agency's comprehensive prevention strategy.

2011-2016 Focus Ireland Strategy: Holding On To A Place You Can Call Home - focus on prevention

Minister Jan O'Sullivan: of security and well-being
[reading dilutes the message]
Prevention - issue of focus on this...need to ensure access to homeless services simultaneously
developed budgets, decisions at local level Section 10
Data collection - PASS roll out needs to continue - gathering numbers
Outreach joint Focus + Simon
-mortgage to rent scheme- benefit family - remain in their home - very few have gone over the line with it.
Comprehensive mortgage arrears - restructuring of loans

Government: Budget of  55 million + Health + Social Welfare = Voluntary Services

Joyce Loughnan - CEO Focus Ireland: 
Housing First Programme - review of strategy coming soon.

18% increase January-August 2012: growing demand for our services
Intervening as early as possible with those at risk of becoming homeless

out of home - emergency accommodation aimed at only 6 months, currently people are living in emergency accommodation for over 2 years.
€60 million = emergency accommodation services - nobody sleeps rough- 

Mortgage Arrears - a lot of debate - private rented sector is also an issue not being addressed - cuts to rent supplements  taking an ad out on that before the upcoming budget

Catherine Maher - National Director of Services & Housing Focus Ireland: 
underlying risk groups...preempting a personal crisis..need to ensure that no one is released from State care without the necessary accommodation in place...recognized Homelessness...issue of Poverty...Social Inclusion...
[National]  [International] [Culture Makers] [Feet] [Equipment]
Review of the original 14 actions ten years ago, what happened?
E.g. 1: recommendation to provide step-down units accommodation in the youth detention centers: Trinity House and Oberstown Girls Centre:
Under the jurisdiction of Department of Education in 2006: Opened the Facility, Fitzgerald Report defined the action as "Fully Progressed"
In 2007 the Department of Justice took over responsibility under the Probation Services  closed Oberstown step-down facility
In 2011 transferred responsibility to Department of Children - currently no sign of it opening.
national Aftercare Strategy - report due - Campaign for legal right to aftercare - legal understanding for aftercare  Autumn
Ministers move on, departments amalgamated, issues lost
Youth Homeless Strategy - HSE creation - no place
faster dept. - different view of the role of the parent
what forms of commitment and long-term engagement?
Central strategizing - services on the front line - don't always match up.

Fitzpatrick Report broader view about what Prevention might mean
File:U+2191.svgPrivate Housing    File:U+2193.svgBuilding Social Housing     File:U+2191.svgPeople Seeking Social Housing
very little written about this

By 2010 sleeping rough almost eliminated in Cork & Galway, all time low in Dublin
when bad weather came only dedicated rough sleepers were out in Dublin - but with huge supports

Prof. Dennis Culhane, Penn University: 
U.S Context: Prevention problematic - Who does it? Who pays for it? what drives it? 
U.S. Stimulus Act - government spending package due to the economic downturn, to put money into the public sector: $1.5 Billion: 60 days call out to apply, 60 days to write policy, 60 days to get the $ out on the street.
Diversion - Relocation - Emergency Rental Assistance
V                                               Prevention - highest volume, lowest cost
O                                              Shelter Admission - mid volume, mid cost
L                                              Actual Homelessness - Lowest volume, highest costs

Housing Stabilization System - includes Day Care, Employment Assistance, Shelter, Family Support, MH/SA services
Target Population: 
Most at Risk - Prevention objective, protocols for intervening, not duplicating Social Welfare Services
Imminently Homeless - crisis intervention + tenancy
Homeless - Emergency Shelter - rapid rehousing
Who in the community should we target for Homeless Services?
Prisoners, patients exiting hospital or detoxification (usually 24hours not residential, not readily available), Youth exiting from Foster Care, Domestic Violence victims, formerly homeless - another episode, also those with psychological risk factors
- where are you in the trajectory of potential homelessness? -
- Narrative - where are you in the story now? - 
Case management: $2100 in NYC cash aid in prevention against $21k for a year in a shelter for a family

Dr. Cameron Parsell, University of Queensland: 
2007 Prime Minister changed all. 
Affordable Housing
Population of 22 million, 250-350,000 people will experience homelessness over a year
6.1 billion - creating affordable housing
1.2 billion - homeless prevention

Prevention: Early intervention
Mainstream: Every ones Responsibility - interact with numerous government agencies 'SICOS'
CentreLink: $6.5 million 'First to know'
Residential mortgages

Reasons for Homelessness:
Housing stock is an issue
Child Protection - multiple failures in care of Young People, absconded at 13, 14, 15 yrs
At risk tenancy (Hal Pawson U.K.)
Private rented sector - INSECURITY
Legislation - tenancy data system - landlords blacklist - unregulated, without grounds asked to leave tenancy agreement
Domestic Violence (Sanctuary systems in U.K.) - 55% women, 37% Children give domestic violence as reason
Repeat homelessness = revolving doors 5% overall
'Street to Home Programme' - rough sleepers  automatic rent deductions, main reason to repeat - loosing housing.
'Common Ground' - lack of community, degree of support on the street, creating a community (?), or institutionalized? 

Supply of Social Housing: less than 5% of housing, duration of need rather than life.
Significant structural issue with availability of social housing

[Hal Pawson?] [Movements side/side/jump. Skip] [Shine a Light] [Simon discussion when?] [Journal] 

Dr. Volker Busch-Geertsema, European Observatory on Homelessness & GISS, Bemen, Germany: 
Does Prevention Work? Lessons from European Research - The Case of Germany (and England)
Prevention: 3 Categories
(Broad) Primary - influencing and minimizing, more general structure
(more Specific) Secondary - crisis intervention
(Most specific) Tertiary - preventing homelessness that has already occurred to stop it becoming entrenched or chronic

?Shinn & Baumholl 1998 p1.
? Pawson et all., 2007 p159.

Slackening of the housing market in many cities important factor in reducing homelessness in Germany
Reduction despite increase of poverty and unemployment for a long period
Positive outcomes possible even within downturn
1985 - 62.4 thousand - one day count
2001 - 10.1 thousand - one day count + 6.31 utilized services within 2 months = 16.41 thousand total

Context: no right to housing in Germany, but DUTY of municipalities to provide temporary accommodation: Duty - Open City Hall when people are sleeping rough with no accommodation available
Private rental share = Germany 2nd highest, highest is Switzerland [!]
Time limited - small number
Social assistance legislation: "Should" not "May" but also not "Must" - arrears rent social & private
Single men and single women with children most a t risk
Rent Arrears 86.3%
Separation 7.5%
Other needs:
Over indebtedness 34.2%
Addiction 11.3%
Mental Health 8.6%
Special social 18.2% 

Men more addiction, women more mental health - difference not so big though
Recurrence 2/3
Rent arrears: imminent homelessness, similar in a number of countries
Improvements in prevention more visiting, floating support, follow-up
Other main reason is relationship breakdown

Prof. Tony Fahey, University College Dublin: 
Social Housing sector 10-15% of population. outsider to homelessness. 
Prevention: When do we know its working? 
2006 65% Australia, 2011 4000 homeless on count night in Dublin, 74 rough sleepers in Dublin.
What is a realistic target for prevention to reach? - defining a measure by which you could tell whether its working.
The Prevention Continuum (as used in Public Health realm)
General Social & Economic Progress (immunization reduces risk, raising living standards etc.) main aim to promote good outcomes, not prevent bad ones. (e.g. slum clearance in Dublin, infant mortality decrease, to peruse a general good rather than prevent a specific evil), Universal Prevention: society wide, intervention, mass program me, compulsory e.g. immunization, fluoridation of the water: low unit costs - costs justified by outcome.
Targeted Prevention: Intervention identifying those at risk and intervening quickly. 
Early Interventions: prevent initial stages of bad outcomes from becoming worse.  Merges into treatment, quick treatment.

Irish Case first & last stages
Good housing system in particular good social housing, not just preventing homelessness but other things child protection, school completions.  Intervene to promote the well being of marginalized citizens - crime prevention services- each service working in a blinkered way - our particular bad social outcome instead a comprehensive social engagement.

Q & A Session:
USA shelter model towards social housing
Australia - CentreLink
Ireland - Domestic Violence a huge issue - removing the perpetrator rather than the victim and children
Germany - social assistance legislation for rent arrears
Ireland - €2500 per month per homeless family over an average of 2 years
Counting/statistics issue: ? Numbers of people sharing with friends and family?
Do they include boarding houses in Australia? - comparing numbers is problematic = measured differently 
U.S.A 5% social housing only, 6% of homeless come from apartment ownership
Australia - financial imperatives & numbers, central to the discussion is values, what society we want to live in, to what extent is equity & equality valued? More important value and society we want to live in, what is important?
Homelessness is a manifestation of what's going wrong in society
Social housing - no one likes it!
Vaulkner - regulation of the private rental sector is hugely important
Sustainability of the outcome = prevention
Failure of State Policy
Duration of time spent in homelessness is a real issue
Incentivization - government shift to a more rationalized system
almost 100,000 people on the social housing list
Housing first findings: worst thing about being homeless is being in emergency accommodation

Rachael Wallace-Lane: Head of Prevention Services, Cyrenians Edinburgh

Preventing Homelessness: Saving Money & Misery
Prevention seems to mean different things to different people - mine is education
Edinburgh - Cyrenians - Entrepreneurial charity - empower people
social cases of poverty and exclusion: valuing people at its core from 1968 on
People helping themselves focus.  Big Picture strategic view
3 key themes structure our working:
Social Enterprise: Long term meaningful outcomes, 9 hours per week food collection delivered then across 90 services; small community farm worked by Young People, cooking at home classes eat well on a budget, workplace opportunities, 2 therapeutic communities
People & Change: Young People live and work together. cities and farm, Drugs & alcohol 100 per year, holistic approach, homeless or insecure accommodation, Young People about to leave school.
Prevention: Upscale/step in before crisis, across organization referrals, built to prevent people loosing their homes, repeat/revolving door - over 300 rent deposit guarantee scheme, Conflict Resolution Service 14 - 24 years.

[Aviva - street to school program me, children who are homeless, to fulfill their potential]
[Function of standing up in front of people publicly]
[blog report for schools]

Prevention focus
Rent arrears, health affecting your housing, Problems with landlords, mortgage debt
Cyrenians Edinburgh mortgage service, City of Edinburgh Council
-mainstream service aimed at people without homelessness episodes for the past 4 years
- 4 to 6 months short term service
whole person approach not just the problem presenting
Cyrenians Way of working (Gerard Egan)
Key workers specialist knowledge
life skills on offer - accredited courses by City & Guilds - money management, cooking
Volunteer befriending, plug into local community, leisure activities
Thriving not just Surviving.
Scottish Government: 3 areas of prevention, all similar
smart in doing more for relatively less
loose focus on our mission by chasing the funding
4-6 month intervention = £2000 Shelter England £800
99% prevented from attending? - debate around goalkeeping - not preventing but preventing people from presenting as homeless, local authority varies.

Afternoon Panel Discussion:

International perspective
Targeted prevention measures, arrears/keeping home
Dr. Paula Mayock, Children's Research Centre, TCD
Systemic Prevention measures - critically important, general welfare, gender equality
Youth Homelessness and women
-continuous repeat homelessness - detrimental effects dotards chronic and long term
Emergency accommodation 
child welfare to adult homeless services - significant
Young People - drug problems, a question of housing the drug user
Young People - Incarceration, not to mark the beginning but to continue the cycle
(While in prison the Rent Supplement continues for 13 weeks)
Domestic Violence, gender perspectives on homelessness: 1/3 women
women went back to abusive partner in order to 'escape'  emergency homeless accommodation services. 
Refuges not used due to drug problem
Orla Barry - Mental Health Reform:
Discharge from hospital into emergency homeless accommodation not okay!
dual diagnosis - addiction and mental health problems, issue not seen.
Children, avoiding the Social Worker and not keeping appointments, acute emotional problems
linking up mental health & homeless services, integrate services
what people say: "I want to be listened to, relationship, alternative to medication" 
Socially engaged human model
Involuntarily admitted to services
Stigma changing - Headstrong for Young People
Michele Clarke - Dept. of Children & Youth Affairs (New department)
School Completions
Youth Homeless Strategy - Young People under 18 years without their parents
child welfare, child protection, family services did these services improve and diminish the need to the Youth Homeless Strategy?
Issue of definitions, data - very hard to count children staying with friends
No Young People sleeping rough
91% children in care with family placements
2010 157 had more than 3 placements out of 6500 in care
1/3 of children went home
keeping engaged until 18 years: 3/4 residential services
500 vulnerable, mental health, disabilities, neglect & abuse, dropped out of education
- how can we help and support? Services up to 21 years or 23 years if in education
HSE budget aftercare: Policy is demand lead 
Australia: caravans in back yard: 
Young Person quote: "I would just like to hang out with someone who isn't paid to be with me"
Peter Minnock - Kildare County Council & Mid East Homeless Forum:
Traveller Community needs - B & B emergency accommodation, 32 in one month
Domestic Violence - sexual violence
"The Known Unknown" 
Child Protection training - obliged under Children First all people  working with children
Aidan Culhane - Special Advisor to Minister Jan O'Sullivan, Dept. of Environment:
Housing lead strategy - complexity is the issue

[Performing lives] [actions] [Aviva Stadium]