Apollo House protesters to meet owners over occupation

Home Sweet Home group accommodating 31 homeless people in disused office building

 Supplies are brought into Apollo House in Dublin city centre which has been taken over by “concerned citizens” and is being used to accommodate homeless people. Photograph: Alan Betson

Supplies are brought into Apollo House in Dublin city centre which has been taken over by “concerned citizens” and is being used to accommodate homeless people. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Housing activists who took over an empty office block in Dublin to accommodate the homeless have said they will meet representatives of the owners who have told them to vacate the building.

Thirty-one homeless people were expected to spend the night in Apollo House on Sunday night after it was occupied by a protest group called Home Sweet Home. The previous night, the disused office building accommodated 21 men and women.

Lawyers for the group have written to solicitors for the building’s receivers saying they are amenable to a meeting next week. Co-founder Brendan Ogle said they would also provide A&L Goodbody solicitors, acting for the receivers, Tom O’Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars, with a full list of founders of the group.

Goodbody, in a letter sent on Friday, said Home Sweet Home are trespassing and sought a meeting “with a view to agreeing an immediate and orderly vacation of the property in the interests of the health and safety of those who are unlawfully trespassing” there.

However, Mr Ogle said the building has been made safe with the help of skilled craftspeople from the trade union movement. Since it was occupied on Thursday, light and heating has been restored, the water supply re-opened and fire alarms installed. Over the weekend, fridge-freezers, cookers, televisions and showers have been installed.

Mr Ogle said the group has been “inundated” with offers of help from people with specialist expertise as well as from the general public. A “huge amount” of food has been donated, and the facility can now handled perishable items.

The local business community have been “fantastic”, he said, and they were now in a position to donated food and other items to other homeless centres in the city.

The centre is a “dry” facility, and those entering are liable to be searched for drink or drugs. Security operates on the doors, and residents are asked to observe silence between midnight and 7am.

Mr Ogle estimated the capacity of the building at about 60 but said it was being adapted in phases and wasn’t yet fully “up to scratch”.

Men account for about three-quarters of residents but couples have also been accommodation. The facility is not open to children for child protection reasons.

People have had to be turned away and a waiting list is in place, he says. “There is no point in taking people in when we don’t have the facilities. We’re just hoping we can provide some level of comfort and security for people who don’t have it.”

With the holiday season fast approach, the group has had several approaches from people offering to provide meals on Christmas Day, he said. It is hoped to install a fitted kitchen by the middle of the week.

Among the founders of Home Sweet Home are musicians Christy Moore, Glen Hansard, Hozier, Damien Dempsey, Liam O Maonlaí, director Jim Sheridan, actors Saoirse Ronan and John Connors, and members of the band Kodaline.

The property was part of a portfolio of loans relating to Shelbourne Developments, a company controlled by Garrett Kelleher, which were taken over by Nama. In April 2014, Nama appointed Mazars as a receiver to the properties.

The most recent rough sleeper count, in November, found 142 people sleeping rough in Dublin and 77 people sleeping on roll-out mats in the Merchants Quay night cafe, bringing the total number of adults unable to access an emergency bed to 219.