Apollo House occupation started with Facebook post

Quentin Sheridan, homeless ‘on and off for 28 years’, angered by ghost estates and authorities

A group of housing campaigners called, ‘Home Sweet Home,’ took control of an empty office block on Poolbeg Street in Dublin last week. In response to the homelessness crisis they have moved a number of people into makeshift bedrooms in the building.

 

Quentin Sheridan, originally from Ballymun, Dublin, and homeless “on and off” for 28 years, was moved to start a Facebook campaign in late October. He called it Home Sweet Home, the group of housing campaigners which has since taken over Apollo House in Dublin city centre.

“I was just so sickened and angry one morning when I went out and found the front of the old motor tax office, behind the Four Courts, fenced off. I was staying in the Back Lane hostel and two homeless couples used to sleep there. I’d bring them tea in the mornings, and I found it fenced off. They weren’t there.

“It was disgraceful, I thought. People are dying on the streets, and the powers that be, all they can do is push us away, push people who find somewhere safe they can sleep, away. I put up a picture of the fence and an impassioned plea on Facebook for support to do something about this.”

Over the following weeks he posted numerous photographs of empty buildings and boarded up homes all over Dublin.

“The homeless need to come together as one force and just start moving into empty houses in ghost estates and other empty properties,” he posted on October 26th.

First meeting

Soon, he says, members of the Irish Housing Network contacted him and a meeting was held, at which Home Sweet Home as a group was formed. Co-founder Dean Scurry contacted a number of high-profile artists, while Unite trade union provided a room a to hold their first meeting in early November.

“Over the weeks we discussed what we needed to do, and it was decided we needed to find a building and occupy it.”

Unions involved in the Right2Water campaign, Mandate and Opatsi, came on board. Unite’s Brendan Ogle used his contacts and identified Apollo House, a building once leased to the Department of Social Protection on Tara Street. It is in receivership, with Mazars appointed by Nama. The building and site are on the market with agents BNP Paribas.

The group, which has the support of director Jim Sheridan, actors Saoirse Ronan and John Connors, musicians Hozier, Conor O’Brien of Villagers, Liam O Maonlai, Damien Dempsey, Glen Hansard, Christy Moore and members of the band Kodaline gained entry to the building on Thursday night.

Bedrooms

On Monday spokeswoman for the group Rosie Leonard said numbers staying in the building would increase as “maintenance issues were resolved” and office space made suitable for bedrooms.

Some 31 homeless people spent the night in Apollo House on Sunday night, while the previous night the disused office building accommodated 21 men and women.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone on Monday said she believed homeless families should be allowed to stay there over Christmas. While it was not the solution to the homeless crisis, she believed they should be allowed to remain if no alternative accommodation could be found.

On Monday a catering firm Caterex began installing a kitchen and plumbers installed showers. The premises has been inspected by gardaí and Dublin Fire Brigade and declared safe.

A&L Goodbody solicitors acting for the receivers Mazars served legal notice on Friday that the occupiers were “trespassing”, asking them to vacate the building .

“We will meet them as a collective,” Mr Sheridan said.