Update: Receivers apply to High Court to have homeless removed from Apollo house

Update 3.15pm: The Receivers for Apollo House, taken over by homeless campaigners last week, have applied to the High Court to have them removed.

The building, which had been vacant, is being occupied by a group calling themselves Home Sweet Home, and 35 homeless people.

In a statement this afternoon, receiver Tom O’Brien said the building was not fit for such a purpose, and was a danger to what he called the illegal occupants – as the fire insurance has run out.

Mr. Justice Paul Gilligan gave them permission to serve notice of their application before 3.30pm this afternoon.

The case is due to return before him tomorrow morning.

Dublin City Council says it will open up 210 new beds in Dublin city centre this week.

Campaigner with Home Sweet Home, Rosie Leonard says their primary concern is the residents in Apollo House.

She said: "Our primary concern at the moment is to make sure this is a home for those who are inside and put them first, they are our priority, everything else comes second.

"We will be contacting the receivers in due course, we are very keen to meet them.

"As for the court summons, we plan to continue as normal, and I suppose we will deal with everything as they present themselves."

Home Sweet Home hope to have enough beds, running water, kitchen, toilet and shower facilities and heat and light to put up about 60 people.

Apollo House was owned by Shelbourne Developments. That company had receivers Tom O'Brien and Simon Coyle of Mazars appointed after their loans on the property were transferred to Nama.

In the midst of the occupation, Mazars secured planning permission from Dublin City Council to demolish Apollo House and build a new office block up to 52m high.

Poolbeg Street was closed for some time as musicians backing the occupation put on impromptu performances in front of hundreds of supporters.

Update 1.50pm: The owners of Apollo House have said they will go to the courts to resolve the sit-in at their premises in Dublin "in the best interests of those currently in occupation" there.

The office building on Tara Street in the city is currently being occupied by housing activists and homeless people.

Through a statement released by the receivers to Apollo House, the owners have said that their "concern has been the health and safety of the homeless people" and they claim that they "have tried to meet with Home Sweet Home", the organisers of the sit-in, in order to arrange the transfer of those within the building "to appropriate accommodation".

The statement from the receiver Tom O’Brien, of Mazars, also said that they "have on a number of occasions sought to meet with them but to date, Home Sweet Home have not made themselves available to meet with us."

They also said that they met with Dublin City Council and homeless charities as soon as they heard about the occupation of Apollo House.

Dublin City Council last night gave the green light to plans to demolish Apollo House.

However, they concluded that "in the event that cooperation is not immediately forthcoming", they have "no option but to take the only responsible course available and look for assistance from the courts".

Statement from Tom O’Brien, Mazars, Receivers to Apollo House, in full

"Since becoming aware last Friday of the occupation of Apollo House by representatives of Home Sweet Home Coalition, as Receivers our immediate priority and concern has been the health and safety of the homeless people seeking shelter there. While we endorse the importance of highlighting the need for providing shelter to the homeless and the most vulnerable in society, the provision of such sheltered accommodation must be done in an organised, structured and sustainable manner. That is not possible in Apollo House.

"We immediately engaged with Dublin City Council and homeless charities who provide shelter and care to the homeless with a view to ensuring that appropriate alternative accommodation, with the necessary facilities and staff, would be available to those who might seek shelter in Apollo House. All homeless charities recognise as a fundamental principle that shelter accommodation must be staffed by trained and properly resourced care professionals in order to create as safe and controlled an environment as possible.

"Apollo House is a commercial premises which was closed down in 2015 due to its poor condition, pending redevelopment. We share the views of the homeless agencies that the building is completely unsuitable for residential use and lacks the most basic facilities needed by those who are homeless. Notwithstanding the efforts by Home Sweet Home to provide these basic facilities, the building simply does not meet the requirements for a sustainable, safe physical and caring environment.

"Another very significant issue is that this illegal occupation of Apollo House has resulted in the loss of fire insurance cover for the building which poses an immediate and significant risk to the occupants and to neighbouring property and occupiers. As the Receivers to Apollo House we cannot responsibly allow this situation to remain.

"Dublin City Council has confirmed that they expect 210 new beds to become available this week in three city centre facilities. These facilities are run by homeless agencies who provide not just beds but a full professional support service comprising professional care, medical and counselling staff along with access to public health nurses. Dublin City Council has agreed to work with these housing agencies so that all those sheltering in Apollo House can be accommodated in these facilities.

"Our overriding concern is for the health and safety of those who are homeless currently staying in Apollo House. The Receivers have tried to meet with Home Sweet Home in order to organise a move of those in Apollo House to appropriate accommodation with the full support services provided. We call on those behind Home Sweet Home to act responsibly and work with Dublin City Council to immediately end the current occupation in the best interests of those who are staying there.

"We have tried to engage constructively with those involved and have on a number of occasions sought to meet with them but to date, Home Sweet Home have not made themselves available to meet with us.

"The situation at Apollo House cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely for the reasons mentioned. In the event that cooperation is not immediately forthcoming, as the Receivers to Apollo House we have no option but to take the only responsible course available and look for assistance from the courts in seeking to resolve this issue in the best interests of those currently in occupation at Apollo House."

Update 11.30am: Leading homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin is an embarrassment for the Government.

Dublin City Council has given the green light to plans to demolish the office building on Tara Street as part of a €50m redevelopment of the area.

Fr Peter McVerry says the activists behind the initiative have been able to do what several housing agencies have been unable to achieve. He added that, while it will not solve the crisis, it has put pressure on the relevant authorities to do more.

"They have seriously embarrassed the Government…who have to bring forward an explanation as to why (the occupation) isn't a reasonable thing to do. And the Government can’t do that," he said.

"They are putting the Government under great pressure to up their game and address the problem of homelessness in a much more urgent manner than they are doing."

Earlier:

Dublin City Council has given the green light to plans to demolish Apollo House.

The office building on Tara Street in the city is currently being occupied by housing activists and homeless people.

The site is part of a €50m plan for redevelopment of the area.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that while the occupation of the site would not solve the homeless crisis, it was a step in the right direction.

"It's right and appropriate the artist community are standing up and saying we need to change our ways so everyone can live in this city…It's impossible to live at the moment. You can’t rent here.

"(The Apollo House occupation) is a symbolic step, but an important step to say we need to be doing more."


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