Deal struck to end homeless occupation of Apollo House

Coveney and Home Sweet Home agree to locate new accommodation for occupants

Home Sweet Home activists rally outside Apollo House in Dublin city centre last week. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Home Sweet Home activists rally outside Apollo House in Dublin city centre last week. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

A deal has been struck to end the occupation of the Apollo House office block in Dublin by homeless people and campaigners.

With a potential eviction deadline looming on Wednesday, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and the Home Sweet Home group agreed to find new accommodation for those living in the Nama-controlled building.

As part of the deal, €4 million will be spent on two new facilities for the homeless in the capital.

Home Sweet Home said residents who secure places in the new accommodation will be given their own keys for 24-hour access and will be offered private single or double rooms for a “place to call home”.

Mr Coveney had earlier expressed confidence that agreement would be reached on Monday with the Home Sweet Home campaign to transfer 39 homeless people from Apollo House into more suitable emergency accommodation.

The group has occupied Apollo House on Tara Street in Dublin since December 15th.

The joint receivers of the property had obtained a High Court order requiring the occupants to vacate the premises by midday on Wednesday, January 11th.

“We are actually working well with the Home Sweet Home campaign now and we will be in a position to work with them to ensure that the homeless people who are in their care will transition into other suitable accommodation for both their short-term and long-term needs.

Core issue

“The core issue for me is about ensuring the people that are in their care are transitioned into professional services and moved from emergency accommodation over time into permanent accommodation, which of course is the road we want to travel with every homeless person.”

Mr Coveney said he was confident the transfer of the 39 residents from Apollo House into more suitable accommodation would take place before the Wednesday deadline set by the High Court.

On Monday evening, Home Sweet Home stated it had agreed not to accept new residents into Apollo House and that it would facilitate the transition of existing residents to suitable accommodation once Dublin City Council had provided them with “the appropriate support services to meet their short and long-term needs”.

It said no homeless person had died on the streets of Dublin over the Christmas period, “despite temperatures dropping to 0 degrees or below on eight occasions”. This outcome, it said, was the first objective of Home Sweet Home.

Hotel accommodation

Mr Coveney had also reiterated a commitment to end the practice of accommodating homeless families in hotels - which has grown dramatically in the past two years - by mid-2017. Money had been allocated to make progress in achieving that goal.

“I am more than aware that society does not accept the numbers of people who are homeless at the moment, whether they be individuals or families, is something that should continue - and we are going to change that,” he said.

“And that’s why I made it clear that from the middle of this year there will be no more families in hotel accommodation - hotels are not suitable for parents or for children, and I’ve set a date that there is no longer a reliance on hotels as emergency accommodation for those families.”

Mr Coveney was speaking at Carrigaline Court Hotel in Co Cork where he accepted a petition with almost 10,000 signatures which was organised by secondary school students calling for action to end homelessness in Ireland in 2017.

Later he released a statement saying additional accommodation capacity through the advancement of two new facilities would be put in place in coming months “to meet potential future demand”.

The facilities, he said, “will include units suitable for single persons and couples and will promote independent living skills”.

Home Sweet Home said the Minister did not confirm whether the two additional facilities for homeless people would be Nama buildings.

New year’s resolution

On the first day back after their Christmas holidays, students from Ard Scoil na Mara Secondary School in Tramore in Co Waterford and CBS Midleton and Edmund Rice College, Carrigaline, in Co Cork made it their new year’s resolution to keep homelessness in the public eye.

Fifth Year student from Ard Scoil na Mara, Lara Quinn (16), explained that they began the petition early last year to keep the issue centre-stage so that “the Government has pressure put on it to continue to do everything it can to make homelessness history”.

Collective concern

Fellow Ard Scoil na Mara student Mark Hartery (16) said the students wanted to register their collective concern over growing up in a country that cannot provide basic housing for so many people, particularly children, who last year numbers more than 2,400 without a home.

“One of the things we are trying to raise awareness about is the reality that homelessness is present in all communities throughout the country. It is something that is affecting families within our own communities, and in towns way beyond the larger cities,” he said.

Choirs from the three schools joined with High Hopes - choirs for homeless people from Cork, Waterford and Dublin - in putting on a short concert for Mr Coveney, who promised to return in a year’s time to report on the Government’s progress in tackling homelessness.

Additional reporting: PA