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Saturday 18 November 2017

Activists reject homeless 'publicity stunt' claim

Volunteer Rosi Leonard outside Apollo House Picture: Steve Humphreys
Volunteer Rosi Leonard outside Apollo House Picture: Steve Humphreys

Homelessness activists have rejected claims by Dublin City Council boss Owen Keegan that the takeover of Apollo House is a "publicity stunt".

They defended their actions to use the empty office block to provide shelter for more than 40 street sleepers.

Rosi Leonard, volunteer with the Irish Housing Network and the Home Sweet Home campaign behind the takeover of the Nama-controlled office block, took issue with Mr Keegan's comments.

"I don't understand what he means by that," she said.

"We are taking this seriously. Numerous people have been accommodated here who would otherwise be out in the street.

"Is this a publicity stunt? It is not. It's a very serious practical intervention into the crisis.

"Owen Keegan can't provide an answer, which is why we had to do this.

"The social housing that was built in the State last year was the lowest on record ever, so when Owen Keegan says that this (Apollo House) is not necessary I don't know what world he's living in."

Crisis

Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has previously said he does not believe Apollo House is the answer.

Mr Keegan has defended Dublin City Council's response to the homeless crisis, saying it spent more than €100m a year tackling the problem.

The council chief said that more houses are needed to tackle the problem, rather than initiatives like that at Apollo House.

Ms Leonard is adamant the council is letting people down.

"I would be interested to see what Owen Keegan thinks is an adequate response to homelessness because we believe it is a safe secure place for people to live their lives. What he is providing, it seems, is floor space," she said.

Ms Leonard called on Housing Minister Simon Coveney to release details of the status of so-called 'empty beds' after he remarked that 54 beds were left empty in the city one night last week.

"Is a bed a bed, or is it a mat on the floor? What Simon Coveney is trying to suggest is that people would somehow prefer to stay on the streets, but a lot of people stay on the streets because they feel unsafe in a hostel because they are on a mat on the floor," she said.

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