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apollo house

On Thursday morning, news broke that a man, who had been sleeping rough just yards from Dublin's most affluent shopping street, had been found dead.

Jack Watson, who had been a resident of Apollo House late last year, was found outside the Superdry store on Suffolk Street in the early hours of the morning, and was transferred to St James Hospital.

Jack's death, and the two which followed in Co Kildare and Co Cork just days after, has, understandably, devastated charities who seek to help the vulnerable in our nation's cities.

Taking to Facebook in the aftermath of Jack's passing, charity, Hope in the Darkness, articulated its anger, and paid a moving tribute to a man who was 'simply down on his luck.'

"Sadness is far from the only emotion being felt, we are angry!" began the post which has amassed considerable traction over the weekend.

"Angry that our fellow human beings are being forced to sleep out on the streets because there is either no emergency beds available or the beds being offered are unsuitable. 206 rough sleepers were counted the other night."

"This is unacceptable on so many levels. The powers that be will lead everyone to believe there's a bed available on any given night for anyone who rings the freephone. Take it from us this is lies!"

"Many a night we leave the GPO and say goodnight to our pals after witnessing them being denied a bed. Off they go to pick a doorway to bed down in, lay down their bit of cardboard, roll out their sleeping bag and stash their worldly goods down the bottom of it in the hope they won't be stolen."

"Imagine closing your eyes and trying to drift off to sleep, but worrying will you be left in peace for a few hours to rest your weary body or will you be kicked, pissed on, set on fire or sexually assaulted tonight. This is the sad reality of life on the streets for an ever increasing number of people each night."

 

Desperate to illustrate the reality of the homelessness crisis in Dublin, the people behind Hope in the Darkness, continued: "For those who get offered an emergency bed it's like playing Russian Roulette with your personal safety – often your sobriety can be compromised."

"The hostels are rampant with drug use. To anyone fresh out of treatment or working a programme taking a bed in a hostel could quite literally mean life or death. Watching someone else using drugs can be too much of a temptation at times and cause them to relapse/slip. Safe drug free well monitored beds are needed and needed fast!"

Reflecting on Jack's tragic passing, the charity sought to remove the perception the general public may have of the homeless they now see on a daily basis.

"Jack was not a drug user, just a man down on his luck as can happen to anyone of us at any time in our lives. His sleeping bag became his body bag," they wrote.

"A gentleman and talented chef who cooked up a storm for residents and volunteers alike as he spent Christmas safe off the streets in Apollo House."

"Would he still be alive if Apollo House were still up and running, I believe so. You now have a forever bed in heaven Jack."

The powerful post has been liked and shared hundreds of times, with social media users deriding the government for its approach to the homeless and vulnerable in our capital city.

"Disgraceful that this has happened, the country is falling on its knees and the government don't CARE," wrote one while another added: "People cannot afford to live and the government don't care and there will be another economic crash."

If you want to assist with the work Hope in the Darkness do for the capital's homeless and vulnerable, keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events including food drives and sleepovers.

Feature Image: Geza Oravecz Photography

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Permission had been granted for the demolition of Apollo House and Hawkins House as part of a €50m development for Dublin City Centre.

An Bord Pleanála have granted planning permission for the re-development of the two buildings, despite opposition.

The buildings have long been regarded as some of the 'ugliest' in the city, however last Christmas Apollo House took on a new function when it was occupied by housing activists seeking a solution to Dublin's growing housing crisis.

According to The Irish Times, the 1960's office blocks will be replaced by a ten storey office building, shops, restaurants, a public plaza and a new diagonal pedestrian street.

The project will be one of the capital's largest redevelopments in recent times.

The area was seen as one of three ''key'' sites within the Georges Quay Local Area Plan which envisaged the construction of a ''mid-town'' area of Dublin.

The board said the proposed redevelopment “would not seriously injure the amenities of residential development in the area by reason of overbearing impact, overlooking or overshadowing and would be acceptable in terms of public and private transport and pedestrian safety and convenience”.

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Just before Christmas, The Apollo House office buildings in Dublin were occupied by nearly 90 homeless people.

The NAMA building provided food and shelter to those in need during the Christmas period, with people from all walks of life coming across the country to help out.

And with all of the occupiers being housed elsewhere, you could say that Ireland really came together to support these people.

Now, TV3 are set to air a special documentary about exactly what happened inside that building.

Inside Apollo House – The Untold Story will air this Thursday, February 23, and will tell the inside story of how a group of people took over the office block and turned it into a shelter for those in need.

It will also feature candid interviews with key players such as Glen Hansard and Jim Sheridan.

 

Inside Apollo House – The Untold Story will air on TV3, this Thursday at 10pm.

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The Apollo House initiative brought major attention to the homelessness crisis in Dublin, and the Home Sweet Home organisation is continuing to shed light on the issue.

The latest video shared on the Home Sweet Home Facebook page showcases the realities of the services that are in place for homeless people in the capital. 

Homeless people in Dublin City are required to ring a free phone number to access a hostel for the night, and the video shows the process.

They are allocated a bed for the night, then have to leave the next morning.

Some homeless individuals interviewed in the short documentary have been waiting for a bed for 11 months.

Former Apollo House volunteers and filmographers Aura McMenamin, Conor Maguire and Sean Fitzgerald put the documentary together, hoping to spread awareness about the "dysfunctional" services.

"The Home Sweet Home media are trying to keep the momentum of Apollo House going," said documentary interviewer Aura McMenamin. 

"Simon Coveney and the HSH negotiators laid out seven points during the negotiations to leave Apollo House," continued Aura. "One of them was to ensure minimum standards in homeless hostels. Our video aims to show the poor conditions of Dublin's hostels."

"People recovering from addiction are put into wet hostels with active drugs users. People report violence and theft. On top of this, beds are allocated on a nightly basis and people must vacate the hostel in the morning without a place to stay during the day. Although HSH can't speak for all hostels, this is a recurring problem and prevents homeless people from having a basic quality of life."

"However, what was most interesting to me when deciding on the concept of the video was the difficulty in getting a bed through the Dublin City Council free phone. I had heard stories of apathy or even derision from phone line operators and the despair of being put in a calling queue for hours on end."

"People we interviewed complained about the way they are spoken to by one operator in particular. One woman was told that she couldn't have another sleeping bag (given to people in lieu of a bed) because she had gotten the last one wet after sleeping in the rain," she continued.

"There is a shortage of beds and a shortage of suitable hostels for people's various needs."

"We hope it makes an impact on people's perception of the homeless. Any notion that homeless people get an easy ride or are happily living off the welfare system is ridiculous."

The video has now been viewed thousands of times and shared across various social media platforms. 

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The occupiers of Apollo House will finally leave the building this morning, as one of Ireland's most supported and well publicised acts of guerrilla activism comes to an end. 

The Home Sweet Home initiative has said that it will move the residents to an undisclosed location.

More than 10 residents stayed in the building overnight as several returned from alternate accommodation they'd been provided by the government, which was deemed "unsafe" and "unsuitable."

They will leave the building this morning to comply with the High Court order to vacate, which came into effect at noon on Wednesday. 

"It is regrettable that in recent days the state has failed to take this opportunity to publicly support this effort to address a national emergency." said the Home Sweet Home initiative. 

"The Apollo House building, because of High Court Action, is not suitable for residents who need to access support services who can't get in."

"We are moving our residents to somewhere they will be able to access services. We are staying with them and continue to advocate for them."

"We will ensure that all of the matters agreed with Minister Coveney will be delivered and will continue our Emergency Housing Plan delivery."

Anyone still inside Apollo House in Dublin could be held in contempt of court, if they haven't vacated the homeless safe haven by the time the High Court is updated this morning.

Yesterday, the court refused to grant an extension to an order to leave the NAMA owned building.

A convoy of taxis are currently moving the residents to their new digs. 

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A High Court judge has refused an application for an extended length of stay from the occupiers of Apollo House, on the basis that it is a matter for the government and not the court system.

The Home Sweet Home legal team returned to the High Court this morning to seek an extension to stay in Apollo House past the January 11 eviction deadline. 

Since the announcement, protestors have created a human barrier around the building by linking arms and standing in solidarity with the residents, who have said they will not vacate the building at noon to comply with the court imposed evictor order.

The Home Sweet Home inititive sought the extension after a number of residants returned to Apollo House after one night in "unsuitable" government appointed accomodation.

"The Government promised safe, secure accommodation that respected the individual needs of the residents, but campaigners can confirm that this has not been delivered," said Apollo House spokesperson Tommy Gavin, after a group of Home Sweet Home delegates met with Minister for Housing Simon Coveney do discuss the future of Apollo House.

A deal was struck in which the campaigners agreed to vacate the building on the condition that appropriate accommodation be found for the 40 homeless residents currently living there. 

However, Home Sweet Home feels that this deal has not been kept.

"Despite reassurances given by Minister Simon Coveney at recent negotiations, it has not been possible to secure adequate alternative accommodation catering for the short and long term needs of the residents of Apollo House,' reads a statement on the Home Sweet Home Twitter page.

"Eight residents have been forced to return to Apollo House after the government abandoned it's commitment to address their needs, mere hours after promising it would."

"The conditions in the accommodation provided by the government are as unsafe and as unsuitable as those that initially drove many of the residents of Apollo House to sleep on the streets in the first place."

"Home Sweet Home will be seeking an extension from Judge Gilligan to the stay on the order of 21st December, in order to continue to work with services to meet the needs of the residents."

“There are clear health and safety concerns in in some of the accommodation offered to residents."

One resident was reportedly taken to a hostel where the walls were covered in blood, Dublin Live reports.

A new banner went up outside Apollo House this morning in response to Simon Coveney's failure to keep his promises, which reads "homes not hostels."

As part of the deal, €4 million is to be spent on two new facilities for the homeless in Dublin.

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A deal has been struck between Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and a team of delegates from the Home Sweet Home initiative, who have been occupying Apollo House since December last year.

The campaigners have agreed to vacate the building on the condition that appropriate accommodation be found for the 40 homeless residents currently living there. 

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

The Minister also pledged that there will be no families left in commercial housing, such as B&Bs or hotels, by July 2017. 

Both Home Sweet Home and the Minister for Housing agreed that "Ireland is currently in the grips of a housing emergency," according to a statement released online by Home Sweet Home

The initiative has pledged to be a permanent fixture in the fight to end homelessness, and will have regular monthly meetings with Dublin City Council to discuss issues around homelessness in the country's capitol. 

Apollo House and it's residents were served with a notice to have vacated the premises by January 11. 

The Tara Street building is set for demolition in the new year, as it is part of a €50,000,000 plan of redevelopment for the area. 

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Talks between Apollo House campaigners and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney ended last night without agreement.

The Home Sweet Home coalition group was in discussion with the Minister and officials for seven hours yesterday.

The two sides failed to agree on policies that were discussed at the meeting. 

The group previously published a list of demands that the delegates were planning on bringing up at the meeting. 

The list includes the establishment of 24-hour private rooms for all homeless people for a minimum of six months, to alleviate those sleeping on Ireland's streets; and a referendum on the right to housing.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Coveney said that the discussions would continue over the next few days.

He said he is hopeful that an agreement could be reached before the deadline to end the occupation next Wednesday.

The Home Sweet Home group and the homeless residents have been ordered by a judge to vacate Apollo House by January 11.

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Homelessness is a serious problem in Dublin, and it's one that many people choose to ignore.

However, the tides are turning, as people have been forced to pay attention to the plight of homeless people sleeping rough on Dublin's frosty streets as guerilla activist group Home Sweet Home battles to maintain control of Apollo House, an empty building which has become a safe haven for the homeless in recent weeks. 

One Facebook page, Homeless Awareness, has been raising awareness about Dublin's crisis since 2014, but the creator of the page has just shared his experiences with having a homeless brother, and the tragic circumstances which led to his homeless status. 

The post, which has been liked and shared hundreds of times, details the life of Darren, the page's founder, and his brother. 

"This is my brother Shane. Shane has been homeless over 10 years battling a drug addiction, we both grew up in a middle class home fostered by a nice family."

"Me and my brother got fostered by a lovely family in Rathmines. I was aged three and my brother was four."

"My brother left at the age of 17 to go live with the Peter McVerry trust over in Ballymun by time he was 18 he was on heroin." 

"I didn't know he was on the stuff till a few years later when people would tell me 'I seen your brother in town he didn't look the best he was on drugs!'"

Darren then shares his experiences with becoming homeless himself, after being kicked out of his foster home at age 18.

"When I was 18 got kicked out of my foster home and I was homeless for a few months sleeping on a friends sofa or sometimes in peoples sheds or the streets."

"I was so scared the first time I slept out on the streets of Dublin. It was the longest night ever walking around trying to find somewhere to sleep. It was hard."

Thankfully, he has managed to turn his life around.

He is now in a stable relationship and has two children, all with a roof firmly over their heads.

However, there is a sense of guilt over the fact that he cannot take in his brother.

"Before anyone says why don't you help him, take him in, I have done."

"But he has robbed me and I can't take that risk again of losing my home, but I've always done my best for my brother and any other homeless person out there."

Shane is still homeless and living on the streets but the author admits that he hasn't seen him for many months. 

The post is gaining a plethora of sympathy in the comments, as people share their own personal stories of living with a homeless relative. 

This isn't the first time a homeless person's personal story has gained national attention.

Three weeks ago, Cinematography student Fionn Kane highlighted the crisis by shooting an emotive video called I'm Still Human, focusing on the hardship faced by James, a homeless man who has been living on the streets for six years.

James reveals the horrific realities of life as a homeless man in Dublin, and tells the camera how he has been assaulted, humiliated and even urinated on while sleeping rough. 

A Facebook post involving James also went viral last month after he was asked to leave McDonalds on O'Connell street despite being a paying customer. 

Almost 7,000 people are now homeless in Ireland, according to the latest figures from the Department of Housing.

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The occupiers of Apollo House have agreed to attend a meeting with the Minister for Housing tomorrow.

The Home Sweet Home group will send a delegation of seven members to meet with Simon Coveney, after receiving an invitation from the Minister.

The invitation came after Apollo House residents created a hard-hitting video directed at the government asking them to come up with a solution for Ireland's homelessness crisis. 

The group has published a list of demands that the delegates will bring up at the meeting tomorrow.

The list includes the establishment of 24-hour private rooms for all homeless people for a minimum of six months to aleviate those sleeping on Ireland's streets, and a referendum on the right to housing.

Dublin City Council give the green light to plans to demolish Apollo House just over two weeks ago. 

The Apollo House office building, which previously stood empty, is currently being occupied by the Home Sweet Home coalition of housing activists and homeless people.

The building is currently operating to capacity, and provides food and shelter to those in need 

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According to emerging reports, a High Court judge has ruled that the occupants of Apollo House in the capital city must vacate the property.

He has, however, delayed the execution of the injunction until the new year.

Since last Thursday, activists and artists, under the name Home Sweet Home, have been using the premises to house individuals who have fallen victim to the country's housing crisis.

The Irish Times reports that while Ross Maguire, SC, who is representing Brendan Ogle, Glen Hansard, Aisling Hedderman and Carrie Hennessy, acknowledges the receiver's statement that occupants were trespassing, he insisted that a number of other legal matters need consideration as well.

Countering the argument, Rossa Fanning, SC for the receivers, accused Mr Maguire of deliberately delivering his case with the help of 'emotive terms'.

According to the report, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan also raised the issue of culpability should an accident occur in Apollo House.

The verdict was delivered at 4pm this afternoon.

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Apollo House was taken over by homelessness charity Home Sweet Home last week, and has since been providing food and warm beds to some of Ireland's more vulnerable citizens.

Today, the building waits on the result of a high court hearing, after receivers of the property have ordered the homeless people and volunteers to vacate the building, which has stood empty for almost six years.

The serving of papers came just hours after Glen Hansard, Hozier and members of Kodaline performed at the building to hundreds of people who turned out in support of the "act of civil disobedience." 

Now Aungier Danger are stepping up to show their support to the cause by creating their very own Home Sweet Home doughnut.

The batch of delicious pastries will go for €5, and all proceeds will be donated to the Home Sweet Home charity. 

 

A photo posted by Aungier Danger (@aungierdanger) on

Apollo House faces closure as the receivers, who were appointed by NAMA, believe there are serious health and safety concerns about the Tara Street premises and that it is unfit for residential use, according to RTE.

Today the High Court will hear that there are concerns about electricity, sanitation, water and  fire safety, and will decide whether or not to force the occupiers to vacate.

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