Saturday 23 September 2017

'The passion behind Irish people when they're moved by something is extraordinary' - Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard has thanked the Irish public for getting behind Home Sweet Home and the Apollo House movement. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Glen Hansard has thanked the Irish public for getting behind Home Sweet Home and the Apollo House movement. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sasha Brady

Glen Hansard has spoken about the extraordinary response from the Irish public to the Apollo House movement.

The musician, along with Hozier, Saoirse Ronan, Jim Sheridan, Kodaline, Damien Dempsey, Christy Moore and other Irish celebrities are involved in the taking over of Apollo House as a shelter for the homeless, with the help of housing activists Home Sweet Home.

On Friday, the group took over the NAMA-owned building on Poolbeg Street, Dublin, for use as a homeless shelter.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One, Hansard said that he wanted to do something worthwhile this Christmas which involved more than "just handing over a cheque at the end of the year".

The empty Apollo House has been occupied by homeless campaigners to shelter rough sleepers
The empty Apollo House has been occupied by homeless campaigners to shelter rough sleepers

"Suddenly a lot of other people started coming to the table and it all started to feel more organised then... Everybody very courageously and very passionately stepped forward," he said.

The house was opened on Friday and Home Sweet Home say they have around 30 people living in the former civic office building at the moment.

Despite organisers currently having to turn people away, it is understood the capacity of building is set to increase over the coming days – with more facilities being made available. Campaigners expect that around 60 people will be able to stay at the facility once certain amendments are made.

"It is an office building. There are 60 rooms that could potentially be turned into accommodation. Give a single woman or man their own key and say 'Go inside. You don't have to leave in the morning. You can make this place your own.'"

Heating was turned on in the building on Sunday night, while showers, fridges, cookers and televisions have also been installed.

"We're learning as we go, all of us," said the Oscar-winning musician. "The Irish Housing Network has been wonderful. It's really been a challenge for us.

Glen Hansard on The Late Late Show with host Ryan Tubridy. Image: RTE
Glen Hansard on The Late Late Show with host Ryan Tubridy. Image: RTE

"Everyone has stepped up and it's been an incredible thing."

Hansard spoke on Friday's The Late Late Show about the movement and told Tubridy today that it had been his most nerve-wracking speech to date.

"I've never been more nervous in my life giving a talk. It's so bloody real. I didn't really have facts and figures to back everything up., All I had was heart.

"I get sick with anger and it's not an anti-government thing. Walking down Henry Street and seeing couples sleeping in doorways and they're half my age... We are at a point now where there needs to be an intervention.

"I was walking with one of the lads from Kodaline the other night and he said to me 'We've got people without homes and we've got homes without people. Surely we have to get them together.' It was such a simple message."

While the 46-year-old understands that eventually the building will be sold, he wants to ensure that families can occupy the building through the winter.

"This isn't a political issue. This is a humanitarian issue and this is what it needs to remain.

"It's about starting a national conversation. And much more than that, it's about getting people off the street. The weather has just turned. It felt very gratifying last night to know that there are over 30 people safe in accommodation with good people around them. I felt very proud.

"The passion behind Irish people when they're moved by something is such an extraordinary thing."

So far over €104,000 has been raised for Home Sweet Home through crowdfunding website GoFundMe.

Hansard will also play a free gig this lunchtime (between 1 and 2pm) outside Apollo House to thank people for their support.

Click here if you would like to donate.

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