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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey among group that took over abandoned building for homeless

The group said the occupation was to give homeless people a bed for Christmas.

Source: Home Sweet Home/YouTube

Updated at 11.05am 

A GROUP OF people took over a former NAMA-controlled building in Dublin city centre last night, in order to convert its use into housing for the homeless.

The group of about 100 gathered last night under the banner of the Home Sweet Home group, with the aim of ensuring no homeless people would have to sleep rough this evening.

The group occupied Apollo House on Tara Street, which was formerly used by the Department of Social Protection, but was vacated last year.

It is due for demolition, with plans for it to be rebuilt as an office block.

The group last night included high-profile names such as musicians Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard, actor John Connors and others.

However, it is believed that the celebrities did not enter the building.

It is also supported by director Jim Sheridan, musicians Hozier and Christy Moore and actor Saoirse Ronan among others.

IMG_20161216_122224 A sign for Apollo House on Tara Street. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

In a statement last night, the Irish Housing Network, a broad coalition of housing and homeless activist groups, said that the building would “provide safe and secure accommodation to the most vulnerable people in Irish society, those sleeping on our streets”.

“In response to government’s failure to address this crisis, this building has been opened as a last resort,” the group said.

This building has been opened to stop people dying on the streets, this building has been opened to save lives.
It will offer people dignity and safety with private rooms, cooking and washing facilities.

“We wanted to save lives”

Speaking this morning to TheJournal.ie, spokesperson for the Irish Housing Network Rosi Leonard said the purpose of the occupation was to “save lives”.

“Basically what inspired this action was that we wanted to save lives and preserve people’s dignity,” she said.

There have been two deaths recently of homeless people on the streets. The crisis is out of control.

Leonard said there are currently 10 adult homeless people staying in the building. There are also a number of activists working to make the building inhabitable.

IMG_20161216_122327 Rosi Leonard speak to journalists outside of Apollo House. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

Although the building was formerly used for offices, Leonard said there were cooking and washing facilities, as well as a number of private spaces for those willing to stay there.

Dublin City Council has recently opened a number of emergency beds as part of the Winter Initiative for housing the homeless. The beds will remain open throughout the winter period.

Leonard said the initiative was “ridiculous”.

“The homeless crisis doesn’t end once the winter is over,” she said.

This afternoon, activists stood outside the building and behind gates that remained closed.

The press were not allowed entry to the building, with members of the Home Sweet Home group saying it was being made ready for people to live there.

Coalition

In a widely shared Facebook Live video from the scene of Apollo House last night from actor John Connors, a large group of people can be seen moving through the south inner city following having entered the building. 

Damien Dempsey can be seen singing a rendition of the Foggy Dew, while others join in.

The Home Sweet Home group is a broad coalition of housing groups, trade unions, musicians, actors and artists. It operates in association with the Mandate Trade Union.

Leonard said the group have not been approached by NAMA or Government officials since they entered the building.

The latest rough sleeper count for Dublin found 142 people sleeping on the streets of the capital.

Nama previously appointed Tom O’Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars as Joint Receivers to Cuprum Properties Limited, the construction company which previously controlled the building.

A spokesperson for Nama said it did not own Apollo House.

“Any issues arising are for the receiver of the building not NAMA,” the spokesperson said.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the gardaí, NAMA and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive for comment.

Read: Homeless families can now get 25 hours of free childcare

Read: Pregnant mother ‘had to view men exposing themselves to her and her son’ in homeless accommodation

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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