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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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Challenges and unexpected questions: On the door at Apollo House

The project is bedding down and expanding its capacity. The matter will be back before the High Court today.

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THE TEAM OF volunteers manning the gate of Apollo House have been dealing with a wide-ranging, and seemingly unending number of queries, problems and random events as the project beds down into day-to-day operation.

Activists with the Home Sweet Home group have been divided into specialist teams as they work to properly equip the multi-storey building near Dublin’s Tara Street train station, and expand the number of available beds.

The security team, charged with deciding who’s allowed into the building and opening and closing the metal gates into the car park, had to deal with an agitated member of the public demanding entry to the building as TheJournal.ie and reporters from other media outlets gathered outside yesterday evening.

The man, who appeared to be homeless, but whose behaviour had become more unpredictable throughout the afternoon, wasn’t being allowed into the building by the team on the door.

A group of ten to twelve men had to intervene and restrain him as he made a dash for the entry ramp, as a car drove in. Other activists gathered in front of the members of the media outside and asked journalists not the record what was happening.

Later, after the man had tried to gain entry a second time, an activist said they had called out for medical help, and that someone was on the way to speak with him.

20161220_161340 A man, trying to gain entry to Apollo House yesterday evening, is faced by members of the security team from Home Sweet Home and a member of the public (left, foreground).

Journalists had gathered at the building from mid-afternoon, expecting agents for the receivers of the building to serve notice of an injunction against the occupants and place a legal notice on the gates at around 3.30pm.

The Nama-appointed receivers had gone to the High Court earlier yesterday seeking to regain possession of the former Department of Social Protection Building. The solicitor for the receivers, Mazers, said the building no longer had fire insurance as a result of the occupation, and that they had health and safety concerns.

A spokesperson for Home Sweet Home, speaking later as the staff prepared for a nightly admin meeting, said that they were speaking to their legal team, but that as yet they had heard nothing from the receivers.

20/12/2016. Apollo House. Pictured staff volunteer Members of the Apollo security team restrain the man from gaining entry. Source: RollingNews.ie

How is the hostel being organised? 

Activists with the group, which is closely linked to the Mandate trade union, and was co-founded by high-profile anti-water charges activist and trade unionist Brendan Ogle, occupied the building on Thursday evening last.

The project is supported by the Irish Housing Network, a broad coalition of different far-left grassroots housing organisations, and has been publicly backed by well-known figures like Glen Hansard, Hozier and film director Jim Sheridan, who took part in a public concert at the building earlier yesterday.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Well-organised and media savvy, the organisation has been dealing with a massive influx of people wanting to help the cause in the days since the building was taken over.

As spokesperson Rosi Leonard explained, volunteers have been divided into support, security, maintenance and other functions. A canteen team is set to come into operation later today as the kit-out of the disused building continues.

There’s no outright leader of the organisation, she said, and no board or committee making decisions. Each team votes on issues affecting them, and those issues are addressed at the nightly meetings.

More volunteers were arriving through the gates of Apollo House yesterday evening, as a call went out across the hand-held radio system asking each “team lead” to report for the meeting.

Various cars, containing activists and supplies, came and went throughout early evening yesterday. A steady stream of well-wishers brought donations of food, clothes and toiletries.

In addition to the large team at the gates, there were “dozens” of other volunteers inside the building, Leonard said.

On the door

Other rough sleepers came up asking to be allowed in for the night – but the hostel was already at capacity, they were told.

Another activist said they were at their limit of 35-38 people for the night – and that it wasn’t possible to allow more guests in.

Guests aren’t being allowed in at the gates of Apollo House, Leonard explained. Instead, they’re being told to go to one of the soup kitchens set up around the city, and ask for a referral.

Volunteers at the soup kitchens know most of the people likely to seek a place at Apollo, Leonard said. Many potential guests may already have a ‘rolling bed’ at one of the official emergency accommodation centres (essentially, a medium-term arrangement to return to the same hostel each night) and Home Sweet Home wanted to set up a system so that people weren’t unnecessarily giving up a bed, in favour of moving to the Tara Street building.

A team of nutritionists had entered the building earlier yesterday to give advice on diet and help the team plan food for the week, one activist said. Other people with specialist skills arrived occasionally and chatted to the door team about how they might help as the project continued its expansion.

For the moment, all donations are being stored in a large room several storeys up. The lift has broken down several times since the group moved in, however, making extra work for the team tasked with taking everything upstairs and keeping inventory.

20/12/2016. Apollo House. Pictured people arrive w More donations arrive. Source: RollingNews.ie

Courts 

A legal notice was eventually placed on the gates of the building later last night, and a further High Court hearing on Apollo House will take place later today.

Yesterday, lawyers for the receivers said that contact had been made with a solicitor representing the occupiers. However, they were told by that solicitor that the Home Sweet Home Coalition could not reach agreement as to who might meet with the receivers.

Separately, Dublin City Council has said extra emergency accommodation for the homeless will be available from Thursday as the Carmen Hall hostel on Francis Street opens, with 65 beds.

- With court reporting by Aodhan O Faolain

Read: Volunteers ‘overwhelmed’ by support for Apollo House takeover >

Read: Apollo House occupation: The story behind how a well-organised team took over this Dublin building >

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