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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Citizens take over NAMA-controlled property and set up rooms for homeless people

One of the rooms in the building (Photo: Gavin White)
One of the rooms in the building (Photo: Gavin White)

Gavin White

Filmmaker Jim Sheridan lent his support as five homeless people moved into Dublin’s Apollo House office block.

The building has been taken over by concerned citizens who “do not want another homeless death this winter”.

The NAMA controlled property has been vacant for a period of six years and “Home Sweet Home” and the Irish Housing Network have reclaimed it in a bid to tackle the homeless crisis.

Five people are now residing in the property which is located on the corner of Tara Street and Poolbeg Street.

At a press conference outside the building on Friday afternoon representatives of “Home Sweet Home” and the Irish Housing Network said the seizure of the building was necessary “to save lives”.

The two groups hope to house 30 people in the building. Home Sweet Home is made up of poets, artists, trade unionists and activists while Mattress Mick has supplied beds for the residents.

Jim Sheridan, Glen Hansard, Andrew Hozier, Saoirse Ronan and Christy Moore are all involved with the coalition.Rosie Leonard of the Irish Housing Network said: “Apollo house has been vacant for six years and it has been opened by Home Sweet Home, the Irish housing Network and a number of volunteers as housing for people who would otherwise be on the streets”.

“Two people died on the 24 and the 25 of November, one in Dundalk and one in Donegal. So this action is about saving lives, there are about 30 people a year who die as a direct result of homelessness”.

Ms Leonard also said “each room has its own bed, there’s shared facilities on each floor”.

She also said they are currently working on setting the building up with electricity and running water.

Dean Scurry of Home Sweet Home said “a lot of people watching this are a week or a pay cheque away from being homeless, so they connect with this”.

“They’re not going to die in the spring so we’ll get the winter months out of the way first and then we can set about making housing a human right”.

Mr Scurry said “five weeks ago we had an idea and now we are standing here”.

In response to a plea from Fianna Fail  TD Anne Rabbitte to turn the heating on in the building, Minister for Social Housing Simon Coveney said;

“To occupy a building and try and put supports together in an ad hoc way is not the way to deal with this”.

However, a spokesman for NAMA Ray Gordon said that the building “was not a NAMA owned building and any issues were for the receiver”.

It’s thought that the receiver of the building is connected with financial firm Mazars Ireland.

Tom O’Brien, Partner, Mazars said: “As the Receivers appointed by Nama to Apollo House, Mazars regrets the current illegal occupation of the building by groups advocating on behalf of the homeless.

"The illegal occupation of the building, which is not suitable for living accommodation, presents serious insurance and health and safety issues which we cannot take responsibility for.

“As Receivers we are legally obliged to protect and secure the property. The current occupiers are trespassing on private property and we are asking them to leave with immediate effect. In the circumstances we have no option but to refer the matter to our legal advisors to pursue the appropriate course of action.”

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