herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Apollo House campaign 'raised the bar' for homeless services

Residents and volunteers leaving Apollo House Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Residents and volunteers leaving Apollo House Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Homeless activists behind the occupation of Apollo House said they had achieved their aim of "raising the bar" of what is offered to homeless people.

Residents of the city centre building vacated the premises yesterday but organisers of the Home Sweet Home campaign stressed it had made a big difference to people's lives.

The departure began at around 9.45am, a day after a High Court decision not to extend the deadline to leave.

On Wednesday, Justice Paul Gilligan had dismissed an application to allow residents to remain in the building.

Co-founder of the Home Sweet Home campaign and trade unionist Brendan Ogle thanked all the volunteers that had given homeless people the most "joyful" Christmas they have had for years.

Mr Ogle said all residents have now been re-housed in temporary homes and hotel accommodation.

"[The aim was] to raise the bar for the minimum standards that have been provided to homeless people and people forced to sleep on our streets in this city," he told the Herald.

"In the last few weeks, what used to be one-night beds have gone to six-month beds; what used to be cover for 8-10 hours, has gone to 24-hour cover.

Incredible

"Last week in a meeting with us, Simon Coveney committed to two new hostels and the state has significantly ramped up the services it is prepared to make available to homeless people because of this campaign and the people behind it."

Mr Ogle said volunteers that cared for the residents had done an incredible job.

"They gave people on the street the best and most joyful Christmas they've had for many years. They are heroes in a country in dire need of heroes."

When Apollo House was vacated yesterday one man had refused to leave but it was confirmed last night that he had since departed.

Following the end of the occupation, movie director and activist Terry McMahon said Home Sweet Home is "more than just bricks and mortar".

"The reality is there is a duty of care required here," Mr McMahon added.

The campaign had been backed by a number of high-profile people including Christy Moore, film director Jim Sheridan and the singer Hozier. Oscar-winner Glen Hansard said yesterday the Home Sweet Home campaign had attracted thousands of people to volunteer support.

"We took a duty of care to these people - us being 'Home Sweet Home', which is a lot of people; over 4,000 people volunteered - we took a duty of care and because they weren't able to access the services they needed we've had to take it into our own hands and put people in houses and in hotels.

"We need to take care of these people, which is what we're doing right now," he said.

Tom Ryan, one of the support workers for Home Sweet Home, has experienced homelessness himself.

Mr Ryan, who is now in temporary accommodation, said that "seeing homelessness on both sides of the fence" is why he got involved in the campaign.

Home Sweet Home spokesperson Rosi Leonard said 72 residents have now received accommodation for six months, which was previously considered "gold dust".

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