DIARY OF AN URBAN BOGMAN. Day 3. Liberation of Vacant Properties

and a Conversation with a Farm Animal


So I was walking down the street, somewhere near the old mental hospital, when I spotted a lively looking group of people, most of them young, standing on a sidewalk. There was a bunch of them, like twenty or thirty maybe, outside a boarded-up row of houses that looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time. A decade, or even longer.

They had a lovely colourful banner, saying something along the lines of “Homes, Not Homelessness” and some pretty pictures of circles, and arrows that looked like thunderbolts. They seemed friendly, so I went over for a chat. One of them gave me a piece of paper with some information on it.

I soon gathered that these young people didn’t have anywhere to live, and that they had taken it upon themselves to open up old houses that nobody lived in anymore, and fix them up, make them all pretty again. That way they could have a home for a while, and the area would look much more pleasant. They would then do gardening and art with the local community, and hold workshops and events, all for free and at their own expense. This seemed like a great idea.

I don’t like seeing houses go empty for a long time. It’s like seeing a person succumb to a terrible illness or broken spirit.

Not long after, a couple more people came to join the congregation. These, however, didn’t look quite as friendly or well–mannered as the others. They arrived in white cars with blue and yellow marks on them, and wore funny blue suits with white letters on the front. They began arguing with one of the young men. I wandered over to have a listen.

“There’s people already in there, then?” The pleasant young man assured him that yes, there were.

“But, the HSE owns those buildings. The people in there are trespassing. They could be arrestedfor that, you know?”

“Seem like the HSE aren’t taking particularly good care of their property” I chimed in, genuinely concerned that, maybe, they’d forgotten about them. The man in the blue suit didn’t seem impressed, though a few of  the youngsters sniggered, apparently amused by my comment. “You’d swear they were underfunded or something.”

The angry man in blue tried to ignore me. “We’re an emergency response unit, we have better things to be doing, you know!” he continued, getting more agitated.

“Yeah lads, there’s water meters to be installed!” somebody exclaimed, to general laughter and cheer. More folks in blue soon arrived, two or three cars, all of which had an additional antenna on them, some of them even lights. Clearly there weren’t very many emergencies to respond to that day.

I suggested maybe the HSE should have put a few beds in these empty houses. I heard on the radio there were people in hospitals sleeping on trolleys, and rather long waiting lists for those in need. Again, I was not taken seriously for some reason.

Some of the locals also came down to join the crowd, and they all seemed pleased that they were soon to be neighbours. Everyone was getting along just fine, except for the people in blue who murmured to one another and looked around suspiciously. I thought maybe we’d gotten off on the wrong foot with them, but didn’t know what to do to fix this. There was nowhere nearby to make a cup of tea. This is how people I know usually solve disputes.

The folks in blue soon left, and the young people continued on with their work. I was glad they had found homes, and looked forward to visiting them again. Maybe helping out with some gardening.

Andre K’por