Midnight At The Apollo

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From top: People arrive to donate items at Apollo House on Tuesday night; gardaí also arrive at the building on Tuesday evening; and Dr Rory Hearne

Tonight/this morning

Lawyers for the receivers of Apollo House, Mazars, will bring their case to the High Court at 10.30am. It follows Mazars serving injunction papers on the occupants yesterday [Tuesday] to leave the building.

Further to this…

Dr Rory Hearne, at Apollo House, writes:

The most inspiring and radical direct action taken, so far, to end the worsening homelessness crisis in Ireland – which is now a humanitarian crisis – has been the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin and its conversion into homeless accommodation. But, the occupation urgently needs your help.

Yesterday [Tuesday] I went inside Apollo and saw first-hand the incredible achievement of this citizens’ ‘civil disobedience’ that is now providing a volunteer self-organised home for 35 homeless people. Those homeless people would otherwise be sleeping on the wet and cold streets of Dublin.

However, just days before Christmas they, and the Home Sweet Home campaign, face eviction from their new temporary homes in occupied Apollo House.

Lawyers for the receivers of Apollo House served injunction papers yesterday [Tuesday] evening to the occupants to vacate the property and the case is to be heard in the High Court this morning [Wednesday morning]. The public is being asked by the Home Sweet Home campaign to support their protest at the court this morning.

The amazing transformation of Apollo House, in just a matter of days, from being an empty disused building to homeless accommodation (and a ground-breaking movement to end homelessness in Ireland) is an example of what ordinary people can achieve when they get together and work in community towards the common goal of social justice and solidarity.

I was in Apollo House on the first morning of the occupation last week, and while the building was functional it was quite bare – being made up of mainly empty offices. The housing campaigners who lead the occupation were determined but very apprehensive about how it all might go.

In just a few days the place has been transformed – with a kitchen set up, rooms for the homeless residents, a number of organising offices and a relaxing area for the residents – with TV, tables and eating area.

But the most inspiring and heartening aspect in Apollo house is the creation of a community of volunteers (of which there have been hundreds helping and thousands offering their help) who are giving up their time to make this homeless accommodation and citizens’ ‘act of defiance’ a success. The volunteers include electricians and maintenance workers from the trade unions, to doctors, nurses, social care workers, security workers, media experts (and media is a vital focus with Rosie Leonard of the Irish Housing Network playing a vital role here) and other volunteers providing cooking, cleaning, administration and other essential support.

There are also bags and bags, and boxes and boxes of food and other donations given in by the public – an entire floor of the building has been taken up by it. Also last night a packed public meeting was held in the Teachers’ Club, Dublin 1, with hundreds in attendance offering their support.

And it is this massive wave of public support that gives this occupation a real power that a court injunction or eviction attempt by gardaí will find hard to stop.

This is because the campaign has won the hearts and minds of the Irish people. There is majority public support for the occupation as RTÉ’s Clare Byrne opinion poll showed that 75 per cent of the public support the occupation of NAMA-controlled office blocks to house the homeless.

And the reason why it has received such public support is because the objective of the Home Sweet Home occupation is urgent, practical, and yet also profound. It is urgent, as Aisling Hedderman, one of the coordinators of the occupation and an activist with the Irish Housing Network explained, because it is “about saving lives”.

And it is a practical solution to the crisis. Aisling said: “It is a practical way in which ordinary people can show their solidarity with the homeless”.

It is also profound, unique and powerful because it is an unlikely and innovative alliance of high profile musicians, housing activists and trade unionists. The support and involvement from the outset by much-loved Irish musicians and high profile ‘celebrities’ including Glen Hansard, Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Hozier, and Jim Sheridan has given it a positive media profile and wide public appeal.

But, most importantly, as Aisling explains, at its heart are the hundreds of people supporting through volunteering and donating who are from a cross-section alliance of Irish society – with volunteers from working class and professional backgrounds working together – and business people donating and trade union workers helping to fix up the building.

I saw in Apollo a very impressive level of structure and organisation. It is a huge task of co-ordination to make emergency accommodation run on a voluntary basis to work. That they have done it in just a few stays is testament to the capacity and ability of ordinary people to achieve real change.

Volunteers are divided up into different teams such as outreach, support, and media – with everyone being given a role and a responsibility – and the homeless residents being empowered to be involved as well.

I sat in on one meeting where a team planned the practical support service for the homeless residents. These were people from different backgrounds – including professionals who have worked with people sleeping rough and it also people who were formerly homeless or suffered addictions themselves and wanted to offer support for those now affected.

In that meeting alone, there were 20 or so people there – all giving up their own time – to try make things betters for others.

This is what makes it different from the ‘usual’ left activist campaign. It is very different from marching in the streets. Here, in Apollo, people can see the change happening in front of their eyes that they are achieving.

It is similar to the broad societal coalition that made the water movement such a success (and involves some its key co-ordinators such as Brendan Ogle and the Unite Trade Union, David Gibney from Mandate along with artist, producer and activist Dean Scurry) but this campaign extends even further into the hearts of middle Ireland, people who want an Ireland of social justice and where the vulnerable are cared for – not left to die on our streets.

Niamh McDonald, one of the coordinators and activists with Irish Housing Network, accurately explained the purpose of the occupation.

She said: “It exposes the government’s inadequate response to the homelessness crisis and the way in which through NAMA they are putting profits and economic gain before the needs of our most vulnerable citizens”.

She also explained that it has received such public support because of the “frustration of the Irish people. The Irish people are frustrated with the lack of practical/workable solutions for people who are suffering the most. The people see the government prevaricating and promising policies but failing to deliver.”

Apollo House with its single rooms and its provision of a ‘home-like’ building for the homeless highlights the inadequacy of some of the existing multi-bed emergency accommodation in the city where there are issues of drugs, the lack of safety and lack of accommodation for couples.

As one activist explained to me – “the multi-bed (dormed) emergency accommodation treats homeless people worse than dogs. There is no dignity or decency in that. Here they are treated with dignity and respect – given their power to make choices – not treated like cattle put into a stall in a shed in Dublin city centre”.

The Apollo building is not due to be demolished for at least six months. It has been converted into an effective homeless accommodation. So there is no justification for evicting the tenants. It has been made safe – and is safer for the homeless than being on the streets. So why can’t the building be left to provide this much-needed accommodation? And where will these homeless people go if they are evicted? Back on the streets?

The reality is that the Government and Minister for Finance can direct NAMA to intervene and get the receivers to stop the injunction process. This is what should happen. The public need to see this and put the focus back onto the Government to change what NAMA is doing with its properties.

Rather than using them to build offices and penthouses for the wealthy, they should be used for affordable housing. This can be done if the government directs NAMA to do it. These are our public buildings, and there are many hundreds of them vacant across the city.

Even worse there are almost 200,000 vacant homes across the country. And the Government could, if it wanted, solve the housing crisis.

As Home Sweet Home stated tonight: “Dublin has 32,000 millionaires and the second highest rents in europe, seems like we must be doing pretty well. So, how then do we nationally have over 7,000 people and children in immediate need of housing with many more on waiting lists, we have people sleeping and dying on our streets, we have over 190,000 empty homes and we have tax breaks for the rich and crumbs for the rest.”

We know that the homeless on our streets are only the top of the iceberg of the housing crisis – with thousands of families, children and individuals sleeping in emergency accommodation, cars, tents, on couches, floors, and overcrowded houses and apartments, not to mention the tsunami of people who will become homeless as the tens of thousands in mortgage arrears are repossessed, and as people are evicted by landlords charging unaffordable rents.

So, it’s not just more emergency accommodation that is needed – but an immediate country-wide government programme of building tens of thousands of affordable, community and social housing.

It is clear to me that if there is an attempt to evict the occupants of Apollo house there will be a massive public backlash and uproar.

Apollo, and the public response to it, is evidence of a re-awakened spirit of the Irish people – after being beaten by bailouts, austerity and inequality – are now standing up for social justice. It has spread from the Right to Water to now – the movement for the right to housing and a home. People are leading where the Government has failed.

Rather than the closure of Apollo House – we should see its extension. We need more Apollo Houses – to show up the idiocy, injustice and immorality of a society where state owned buildings are being left empty and sold to vulture funds while citizens die on the streets because they do not have a home.

In the face of growing cynicism, of disgust with politics, of the rise in other countries of movements of hate, in an era of greed and individualism – the Apollo house occupation is a ray of light – of a community of hope and collective action emerging in our battered Republic.

Finally, support their call today to go to the High Court. They say: “Apollo House has through hard work created a massive community of people who stand against this crisis. Please support us outside the High Court from 10am”.

You can donate or volunteer through their Facebook page here

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academc, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Previously: Live At The Apollo

81 thoughts on “Midnight At The Apollo

    1. AlisonT

      “Those homeless people would otherwise be sleeping on the wet and cold streets of Dublin” – there were already a large number of empty hostel beds available over recent weeks for those who were sober.
      Perhaps if these Artists paid tax like the rest of us the government would have more funds to house the population.

      1. Anne

        Aren’t you the same commenter, who on the thread about the documentary – Atlantic – about us giving away our fishing resources to the EU, commented about people trying to find a way to watch the programme

      2. Frida

        @Alison T – many of the people staying at Apollo House don’t want to sleep in hostel dormitories with strangers and having to vacate each morning. How would you like it? At Apollo House they have a room each and don’t have to be out wandering the streets by day.

        I take my hat off to everyone involved in #HomeSweetHome. Passively donating cash is no longer enough.

  1. Kenny Plank

    First thing to do is to rename the place from Apollo House to someone more appropriate.

    How about Jonathan Corry Co-op?

    1. Andy

      Jonathan Corry was given two houses by his family.

      Perhaps if it was a treatment facility it might be an appropriate name.

      However, this is a dry facility, so Mr Corry would most likely not have been allowed into it at the time of his death.

    2. Fact Checker

      Who is covering the public liability insurance for Apollo House?

      Anyone providing basic shelter to the homeless has a minimum duty of care to them. I am not convinced that safety of the occupants can be guaranteed in this case.

      Everyone involved has pure intentions, but someone at some point will have an injury (this is of course an abandoned OFFICE block, never designed nor used for habitation) and someone will be liable.

      This is a very good as a media initiative though. There is a lot of poor land use in Dublin city centre for a number of reasons:
      -Planning restrictions on land use
      -Derelict buildings and sites and a city council unwilling to use its statutory powers to CPO them
      -A lot of publically owned land poorly used
      -Restrictions on height – very hard to build up

      Sadly none of these apply in Apollo House which is just a common-or-garden case of an office block about to be demolished to be replaced by another office block. This happens in cities all the time around the world. They are not even slightly suitable for use as emergency homeless accommodation.

        1. Fact Checker

          Reductio ad absurdum.

          Anyone providing shelter to other people has a minimum duty of care for their physical requirements and safety.

          This applies to 5-star hotels or shelter for the homeless and is.

          I am not sure this minimum duty of care is being met in Apollo House.

          1. Nigel

            Please sleep on the streets because we din’t have insurance for you to sleep inside. Reduced to the absurd is right. The are risks involved here, yes. But they’re being weighed against the alternative risks and simple human needs in the urgency of a crisis.

          2. Nigel

            Heh. The law in all its majesty insists that rich and poor alike sleep in properly insured accomodation.

          3. On The Buses

            For a ‘fact-checker’ you’re putting a lot of weight behind an argument that you are ‘not sure’ of.

          4. ahjayzis

            And you’re being pedantic and bureaucratic.

            Is there any instance in your life where you could feel compelled to act in a humanitarian crisis without seeking legal advice and squaring it with your insurers?

            What’s a few nights sleeping under a bush for some poor homeless people while the urgent work of convening an oversight committee to hear legal opinions and to perform a scoping exercise is undertaken.

          5. Fact Checker

            I have not seen evidence presented that the accommodation in Apollo House would pass minimum legal requirements for a regular homeless shelter on things like sanitation, fire safety, privacy, etc.

            I have also seen claims by DCC that there are sufficient emergency beds for anyone who wants them.

            Like most things in life, I am not in the position to verify these things personally. So feel free to present some better evidence if you have it.

          6. Daisy Chainsaw

            This is the emergency shelter currently on offer in Merchant’s Quay. It doesn’t look much different to an open plan area in an office like Apollo House.

            http://www.irishexaminer.com/remote/media.central.ie/media/images/z/zzzHomelessCafe1_large.jpg?width=648&s=ie-323541

            A crash mat on a floor with several other people. No privacy, no comfort, no dignity. Apollo house isn’t a warehouse or a factory floor. It’s floors of offices that civil servants used quite safely for decades. These offices have now become bedrooms, giving 35 people some privacy, comfort and dignity, but most importantly a safe, secure, roof over their head before a storm hits at Christmas.

      1. ReproBertie

        “I am not convinced that safety of the occupants can be guaranteed in this case.”
        Have you inspected the property? Are you a qualified health and safety professional?

        1. ahjayzis

          He stated yesterday that office accommodation was basically inherently unsafe on the grounds of being office accommodation. I’ve had to work from home since, since he’s a Fact Checker and must know.

          1. Daisy Chainsaw

            It was safe enough for thousands of civil servants down through the years… The government building where I currently work has a couple of beds in designated sick rooms. There are “boutique” hotels in the UK that were former office blocks, so people are talking out their bottoms, using “health and safety” to evict people.

  2. Andy

    So all that’s needed is a giant office block, a rotating team of hundreds (including a “vital” media team apparently) and musicians to house a grand total of 35 people…..

    So to deal with the 7000 homeless all thats needed is 200 office blocks and 20,000 volunteers. They’d have to be volunteers as to pay them the average salary (€35k) it would cost €700,000,000.

    1. Martco

      no Andy
      all it needs is for FG to admit they’ve fooked up, stop serving up sound bites and optical illusions and get busy building and fixing up public housing instead

      Let’s keep the recovery going ;)

    2. Anomanomanom

      Im willing to bet the rest of my working lifes salary that homelessness will never be solved. And its not because government’s or volunteer organisations are not trying, its because if we had 1000s of top notch facility’s with enough beds it solves a short term fix. You need to try solve why people are homeless. We will always have people sleeping rough. You need to tackle the cause not the aftermath.

      1. Turgenev

        But this kind of homelessness only started to exist in Ireland when we started worshipping at the altar of Maggie Thatcher.
        We need to build public housing – this will solve a bunch of problems, from housing the homeless to putting a brake on rising rents and house prices to the health issues caused by homelessness (whether that’s the extreme of alcoholics sleeping on the street or the future problems of children spending months or years of their lives living in one hotel room with their parents and siblings while wandering the streets during the day, and hiding their homelessness from their schoolfriends).
        We need to change our values, so that profit is less important and community is more important.

      2. ahjayzis

        If we have homelessness in 50 years it’ll be because the likes of FG and FF will still be fighting tooth and nail to perserve housing as a speculators commodity market and not a basic necessity of a civilized society.

        That’s the cause of a crisis at this level, not the fecklessness and moral failure of the indigents.

        1. DubLoony

          Bizarre thing is, is was FF in the ’30s that built places like Crumlin, Drimnagh, Ballyfermot as social housing to deal with the overcrowded tenement slums that was the problem at the time.

          1. j

            the current crisis has absolutely exploded since fine gael got into power six years ago. now i detest fianna fail, obviously, but there is no way the homelessness problem was half this bad under them.

    3. Wilhelm Reich

      It’s a start, citizens shouldn’t have to do things like this but needs must. People have just had enough in this country and have had to resort to getting into trenches in footpaths and occupying buildings to try and embarrass the establishment into using our tax money how we want it to be used.

      1. DubLoony

        Why don’t you ask the cheerleaders in AAA why they have been objecting to modular housing being built in Drimnagh?

  3. Owen C

    “It is also profound, unique and powerful because it is an unlikely and innovative alliance of high profile musicians, housing activists and trade unionists”

    Its unique in that its not the usual self defeating endeavor that we are so used to from the SJWs. For once they have managed to do something which creates a positive short term impact and understanding on the problem of homelessness, without massively inconveniencing or disrupting other people’s lives. So, for that they should be highly commended. But i do wonder what the plan is from here, as Apollo house is entirely unsuitable for housing people for anything longer than a few weeks.

    1. Deluded

      I’m curious now… how have people been massively inconvenienced and their lives disrupted by online commenters?

      1. Owen C

        Nigel, if the only argument you have is “its better than the streets”, then you’ll probably have few people disagreeing with you. Likewise with the “losing an arm is better than death” argument, though this is something i would equally advise against actually doing.

        1. Nigel

          It’s so bleedin’ obvious everyone agrees and yet still here we are acting as if the people involved in this action are the problem somehow. Because like losing an arm rather than dying you wouldn’t advise sleeping on the streets rather than in an office block seized as accomodation in a guerilla action. Well there you go then. I wonder what it must be like to live every day not knowing where you’re going to sleep each night? A disused office block run by volunteers in an isolated but high-profile action unlikely to be sustainable beyond a few weeks might look pretty damn good.

          1. Owen C

            “yet still here we are acting as if the people involved in this action are the problem somehow”

            It’d be genuinely amazing if you could point out just where I said the people involved are the problem. It’d probably defy physics.I think I made the very same point that this was a good short term initiative. Perhaps if you could see beyond the blinkered rage…

    2. Loan Some Cow Boy

      yea fair play SJWs for not being smelly, offensive or taking a poo outside my place of work

  4. b

    As Home Sweet Home stated tonight: “Dublin has 32,000 millionaires and the second highest rents in europe, seems like we must be doing pretty well”

    both statistics are a function of a lack of housing supply, the conclusion is laughable

  5. Murtles

    This is an unlawful occupation and trespass into an unsafe and unsanitary building however I applaud the initiative. All we’ve gotten are platitudes and promises for the last 6 months from Coveney and his ilk and we’re going to do this and hoping to do that but yet the streets of Dublin are like a war zone each morning with bodies in sleeping bags. There is no way one public building could not have been converted instead of the chit chat (replace the first c with an s) from the Government. Of course the Gardaí will be the bad guys again when they’re sent in to kick the occupiers out.

    1. ahjayzis

      “unsafe and unsanitary building”

      Where’s the proof of this? people keep talking about it like it’s a death trap – what’s the actual building defect?

      It’s not like the official homeless shelters are in state of the art passiv hauses.

      1. Murtles

        Unsanitary in that there is no running water. Does the waste of 35 occupiers plus 35 more volunteers magically disappear? Hopefully there’s a solution in place.

        1. Niamh

          There is running water. And seven toilets. A kitchen. Running water. It’s an office block in the centre of Dublin.

          The volunteers are SQUATTING it. They are not asking that the bureaucratic weight of insurance firms and state agencies come and clear it for them. On account of the fact that the residents would otherwise be sleeping rough. And, you know, people do die that way. Every year.

          It is an act of civil disobedience and not a ring-fenced panel-approved action by DCC.

          That said, the volunteers have been analysing the action, planning it, and consulting professionals for over a year now, ahead of squatting it. Most of the main volunteers are employed in other homeless shelters and are implementing management strategies typically used in other shelters.

          It’s not perfect, but your mean-spirited griping is rather transparently feeble.

  6. Daddy

    Young Fine Gael Bots and Michael O’Leary Fan Boys are out in force today.

    The attitude of you FG scum would have had to beaten senseless in this country in the 1980s.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      According to a complaisant media pre-programmed to rubbish any effort not photo opped by “de Minister”, and designed to set people who have common cause against each other. The slurs come from the FFFG fanboys accross all media.

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          I did, and was replying to the post directly above mine, Oh Master of the Forum. Should we submit our posts to you for pre-publication scrutiny? Merry Christmas and eff off, Cian.

  7. gaz

    Government currently scheming as to how to end this action asap while minimizing political damage.State also must ensure that such barefaced defiance from the masses must be punished in order to dissuade copycat actions.A dangerous precedent of actual action against the soulless money machine that warps our lives.

    1. DubLoony

      How do you account for AAA TDs objecting to modular housing in their constituencies while applauding the Appollo house action?

      there is planning & housing activity going on, obviously not enough & not fast as needed, but every time there is a plan, up pop the objectors.
      Its not always the government, the already housed taking precedence over those who need housing needs to be challenged as well.

  8. Junkface

    Get more homeless people into Apollo House. Irish people need to break more laws with regard to housing, because the government do not stop the building industry from breaking laws, or the banking sector from breaking laws. The people are awlays bearing the brunt of corruption in Ireland. Its about time we started screwing the wealthy and their teams of overpriced solicitors. Suck it Fine Gael you Pigs!

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      With you Junkface, one thousand per cent. This sh!t continues because we hold still for it. Time to take action, time to shake the Politicians’ safe, comfortable, status quo. This is NOT good enough, and it never has been.

    2. rotide

      Its about time we started screwing the wealthy
      and there it is.

      Wealthy being ‘anyone who has more than I do’

      1. Kieran NYC

        +1

        The “power to the people” guff above basically just boils down to “I want to take all the rich people’s money and have it myself”.

      2. Peter Dempsey

        +1 here as well. If you’re middle class. (and not guilty about it), wear a suit and a homeowner (even with a mortgage) then you’re ripe to be screwed by the warriors.

  9. Frilly Keane

    Any chance the latest crop of activists and housing experts can get Hoozier and Christy t’do a gig for the *VHA I work along side with?
    (Voluntary Housing)

    ‘Currently dealing with 30 plus realistic cases …. we can probably keep most of them in their homes via a Mortgage to Rent type solution; if not – definitely rehouse

    Also looking to raise funds to pay SC/ legal scholar for opinion on two matters that could have an enormous impact in the Family Home repo scene

    A dig out would be great

    See that Dr Hernia
    I walk my talk

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