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Thursday 27 April 2017

'We won't leave Apollo House until everyone is sorted out'

Members of Home Sweet Home and the Irish Housing Network march from Apollo House to the Department of Finance. Photo: Damien Eagers
Members of Home Sweet Home and the Irish Housing Network march from Apollo House to the Department of Finance. Photo: Damien Eagers

Gavin White

Apollo House campaigners said they have no plans to vacate the building next week, even as dozens of residents were granted much sought-after emergency accommodation.

A total of 37 residents in Apollo House have moved to six-month beds, according to Dublin City Council. A further four will be moved today.

Mairead Hughes and granddaughter Alex Collins Hughes (6) support the protest. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mairead Hughes and granddaughter Alex Collins Hughes (6) support the protest. Photo: Damien Eagers

The Nama-controlled building was taken over by activists frustrated with the homelessness crisis. Rosi Leonard, from the Home Sweet Home campaign group, said: "Six-month beds are like gold dust in this country. A lot of those people taking those beds are people who did not know where they were going to be sleeping night by night."

But she said there were no plans to vacate the building on January 11 if other residents did not get suitable accommodation.

Read more: Apollo House residents lead petition urging minister to house homeless in state-controlled properties

"We've got a three-page waiting list of people trying to get in here. We won't be able to leave this building if everyone is not sorted out - there's no way we can," she said.

Carrie Hennessy and Niamh McDonald of the Irish Housing Network hold up a petition calling for action. Photo: Damien Eagers
Carrie Hennessy and Niamh McDonald of the Irish Housing Network hold up a petition calling for action. Photo: Damien Eagers

Ms Leonard was speaking as a march from Apollo House - involving about 300 activists, homeless people and their supporters - went to the Department of Finance to hand in a petition.

The petition had just under 4,000 signatures and called for the Finance Minister to "use his powers under the Nama Act to use those properties for social good".Niamh McDonald, a volunteer who handed over the petition, said: "Right now, this country is in an accommodation emergency and the Government is sitting on a bank of houses.

"It is time for this Government to put the most vulnerable in our society first, before profit," she said.

"The Government is forcing us into hostels, where the people next to you are using drugs and smoking," resident Mitzalo Reyes said.

"They should keep this place open until the Government builds the social housing that they've failed to build time and time again."

The Peter McVerry Trust had made an offer of accommodation to 40 residents of Apollo House before Christmas.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance said: "Nama has already been active in this space and have offered almost 7,000 units to local authorities for use as social housing."

Irish Independent

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