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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 23 May, 2019
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Gardaí arrive as residents protest closure of homeless hostel

John’s Lane hostel is scheduled to be redeveloped into more long term accommodation.

IMG_0474 Activists outside John's Lane West hostel in Dublin this morning. Source: TheJournal.ie

Updated at 5.55pm

GARDAÍ HAVE ARRIVED at the scene of a protest over the imminent closure of a homeless hostel in Dublin’s south inner city.

John’s Lane West hostel – which contains 42 beds for homeless people – is due to close its doors today to be redeveloped into more long-term accommodation for homeless people.

The building – which is owned by Focus Ireland and operated by it and the Peter McVerry Trust – was opened in winter 2014 as part of the crisis response to the issue of homelessness in Dublin following the death of Jonathan Corrie outside the Dáil.

Housing activists from the group An Spréach protested outside the building today – which sits just off Thomas Street close to the National College of Art and Design – while a number of residents are still inside.

Arriving at the scene a short while ago, gardaí in a van are stationed outside the building but have not taken any action to remove protesting residents.

It is understood that negotiations between Focus Ireland and residents situated inside the building are ongoing.

IMG_20160704_171024120_HDR A Garda car at the scene Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

Speaking to TheJournal.ie by phone from inside the building, Rosemary Hughes – who has been resident at the hostel for three months – said that she would not be leaving until she was given a guarantee of further accommodation.

“I’m not going anywhere until this is sorted,” she said.

Hughes – who is visually impaired and has a guide dog – said that she is remaining in her room with another resident. She said there were about 15 other residents inside the building doing the same thing.

Things are a bit tense here at the moment.

In a statement, Focus Ireland said that a number of people who had stayed in the hostel last night had refused to leave the premises this morning until they were told where they could stay tonight.

“The staff in the premises have now confirmed alternative accommodation tonight for all of these people,” said Focus.

It also said that protesters who “were not using the service” had now entered the building and that residents who have accommodation confirmed for tonight are also still refusing to leave.

“Focus Ireland staff are now working to resolve this situation with the customers and the outside protesters so that the development work on the building can progress as quickly as possible,” the organisation said.

Long-term housing

Activists from An Spréach were protesting outside the hostel building this morning with signs and placards.

IMG_20160704_101546929_HDR Signs from this morning's protests. Source: TheJournal.ie

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Laurence Vize, a representative from the group, said that they were there to support the residents.

“42 people are being put out on the street by the closure of this hostel.” said Vize.

Vize said that there were “two issues” being raised by the closure: the situation of the residents in there now and the issue of the wider homeless crisis in general.

“Even if these people here do get accommodated tonight there’s still 42 other people who will have no accommodation if this building closes,” he said.

IMG_20160704_101558501_HDR Activists involved in this morning's protests leaving the hostel after they gained entry. Source: TheJournal.ie

Development

Focus Ireland said last month that it would be closing the hostel, which is located in a former factory building.

The building is scheduled to be demolished and replaced by a development of 31 apartments for the long-term accommodation of people who are homeless.

“The use of the building as emergency accommodation was always understood by the DRHE and the voluntary sector partners as a short-term measure to make best use of the premises until the scheduled building work began,” the organisation said.

It also said that planning permission for the site requires that the new apartments be completed by the end of 2017.

The start of July is the latest date for the redevelopment project to begin to ensure the much needed homes are provided by the end of next year as required.

IMG_20160704_102258823_HDR The front entrance to the hostel. Source: TheJournal.ie

An Spréach activists said this morning that they would march later to Focus Ireland headquarters to protest against the closure.

“Peaceful occupation”

Rosemary Hughes told TheJournal.ie this morning that no proper alternative accommodation had been sourced for residents.

“There is currently a peaceful occupation of the hostel underway,” said Hughes.

There are currently about 15 to 20 people here who don’t want to leave.

Hughes said that she would refuse to leave the hostel until a suitable alternative was offered.

“We want suitable accommodation, we want respect… and to be treated like human beings,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive – which manages homless services for Dublin City Council - told TheJournal.ie that alternative accommodation for people at John’s Lane ”has and continues to be secured” and that planning permissoin to re-develop the site would run out expire by next year.

“Alternative accommodation for the people currently using the service has and continues to be secured with Dublin City Council Homeless Central Placement Service and the providers Focus Ireland, Peter McVerry Trust.

There have been long-term plans for this building and the service provided at Johns Lane West was an interim provision.

Read: Former residents occupy homeless hostel in protest over its closure

Read: Woman (18) and baby found on street after failing to get emergency accommodation

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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