Sunday 25 February 2018

'Twenty people were turned away from Apollo House every night'

Home Sweet Home volunteer Rosi Leonard at Apollo House. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Home Sweet Home volunteer Rosi Leonard at Apollo House. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Laura Lynott

Home Sweet Home campaigners occupying an empty office block said they were turning away 20 homeless people a night as they prepared to march to the Department of Finance today.

The group, ordered to vacate the Tara Street building on January 11 under a court ruling, claimed it had no choice but to refuse people a place to stay, as the building was at capacity.

Dublin City Council and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said there were appropriate emergency beds for all rough sleepers, including those in Apollo House.

Rosi Leonard, of the Irish Housing Network, who volunteers at Home Sweet Home, said: "The hostels are in dire conditions. But we can only accommodate 40 people, and every night we are turning away around 20 and have to offer them sleeping bags."

The campaigners said that 205 homeless people had slept in the building since they took over the Nama-owned property on December 15. More than 30 have been rehomed with the Peter McVerry Trust with six-month beds, which Ms Leonard said were "like gold dust".

"We still have 40 a night and we won't be leaving until everyone has a home," she said.

"The residents are very worried, but when a bed is available we'll fill it. We're asking again for the Government and Dublin City Council to meet with us.

"Even if the Apollo House people are housed, it still won't solve the national homeless and housing crisis in Ireland."

Dublin City Council said: "So far, 33 people from Apollo House have been accommodated in city council-commissioned emergency bed spaces, including several to the new hostels opened by Dublin City Council just before Christmas.

"There were a significant number of available/unused bed spaces throughout the hostel system during the Christmas/New Year period. We advise the organisers to refer people to the many homeless services and facilities in the city and to engage with staff from the McVerry Trust, available in Apollo House each day.

David Collins in his room at Apollo House Picture: Colin O'Riordan
David Collins in his room at Apollo House Picture: Colin O'Riordan

"The court order referred specifically to 40 persons and we're asking, when that number have been accommodated, no further persons should be allowed to occupy Apollo House."

A Peter McVerry spokesman said: "We have assessed the accommodation needs of 49 individuals resident at Apollo House: 33 have moved to alternative accommodation. Some have indicated they'll not take up offers of alternatives accommodation until January 11."

Department of Housing figures show almost 7,000 adults and children are homeless across the country.

Irish Independent

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