Homeless and activists leave Apollo House amid emotional scenes

HSH group had been occupying vacant building to accommodate homeless people

All remaining residents in Apollo House have left the Dublin city-centre office building and have been moved either to housing or hotel accommodation paid for by the Home Sweet Home campaign. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Housing activists and homeless people occupying Apollo House in Dublin left the building on Thursday amid emotional scenes.

The High Court later heard one person was still in the office building and that the removal of property was stopped at the request of gardaí.

Michael Lynn, SC for the Home Sweet Home group apologised to Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, saying it had been his understanding on Thursday morning that all remaining occupants had voluntarily left the building. The HSH group had been occupying the vacant Nama-managed office building since December 15th to accommodate homeless people.

A court order for them to leave came into force at noon on Wednesday. Most of the remaining nine homeless people left on Thursday morning.

Mr Lynn said on Thursday afternoon “in fact one gentleman is still in the building”. He said “all efforts” had been made to get him to leave. The gardai were now with him in Apollo House, and asked that property removal which was underway “stop at this moment”. He said the building would be fully evacuated “as soon as possible”.

On Thursday evening a Garda spokesman said there was “no issue” at the premises and that gardaí were not present. A source close to the activists said he understood the matter had been dealt with and that there was no longer anyone in the building.

Rossa Fanning SC for the receivers told the court earlier he had no problem with what had been said and asked that the issue be brought back to the court for mention, next Tuesday morning.

Earlier on Thursday Mr Lynn told the court that the occupation of Apollo House had ended, but that a large quantity of property and donated items now need to be removed and that this would “take some time”.

Mr Fanning for Mazars said this was “extremely welcome” news.

He said his clients would “give reasonable accommodation” to the HSH group for an orderly vacation of the building.

The move by the activists followed a decision by a High Court judge on Wednesday to reject an application for a stay on an order to vacate the building issued before Christmas.

In a statement, Home Sweet Home said the campaign would “accommodate homeless residents until government can ensure appropriate services”.

Seven taxis with residents of Apollo House left the premises at about 10.30am. One man shouted out the back window as the taxi drove away: “Homes for the homeless! Nama you should be ashamed of yourselves”.

The residents have been offered alternative accommodation which will allow them to access services.

Shortly afterwards, about two dozen activists walked slowly down the car park ramp carrying a Home Sweet Banner and chanting: “Homes for the homeless.”

There were emotional scenes as many of them hugged and cried.

“We did it,” said one person. “We did what we set out to do.”

Brendan Ogle of the Home Sweet Home group confirmed the residents who had left the building had been provided with housing or temporary hotel accommodation paid for by the campaign funds.

“Unfortunately, we found ourselves in a situation yesterday where because of a court order, the support services needed by the residents of Apollo House were not available in this building,” he said.

“Because of a court order, the safety measures needed to keep people safe couldn’t be delivered in Apollo House. Home Sweet Home has housed the residents of Apollo House independently and we are going to make sure that the Minister for Housing and the State and Dublin City Council deliver what was agreed with us last Friday and that those people get the supports they need.

“This campaign has only just begun. It’s a very emotional day for everybody that’s been in here for the last few weeks,” Mr Ogle said.

Mr Ogle was also accompanied by musician Glen Hansard, one of the artists who has supported the campaign from the outset.

Rosi Leonard of the campaign group said it had prioritised the safety and dignity of the residents.

The Government and Dublin City Council now needed to “step up” and do their duty to care for everyone who needed it, she said.

Fr Peter McVerry of the Peter McVerry Trust homeless charity said: “I think it’s wonderful. I think they’ve done the job.

“They have highlighted the issue of homelessness, they have got public support behind the issue of homelessness, at least 80 residents who were in Apollo House have found alternative, very satisfactory accommodation which they’re very happy with.”

“I think it has been a wonderful success, but I am delighted it has come to an end because it’s not long-term suitable accommodation for anybody who is homeless, so I’m delighted it has been resolved and been resolved very satisfactorily.”