Homelessness campaigners occupying Apollo House have called upon Housing Minister Simon Coveney to clarify the definition of ‘beds’ in Dublin hostels.
The minister claimed that dozens of such beds lay empty last week.
“So people know the facts: There were 54 unoccupied beds last night in homeless shelters in Dublin and no more than 17 in Mechants (sic) Quay,” Mr Coveney tweeted last Friday.
“I don’t consider a mat on the floor a bed. That is why we have introduced 210 new, safe, good-quality beds in three new hostels,” he said, in a reply to one member of the public.
However, campaigners yesterday said that they were concerned that mats are being included in this figure. “A few hours on the floor of a packed dormitory does not constitute a bed,” spokesperson, Rosi Leonard said.
“It does not guarantee safety, or that supports are in place. They do not give people any opportunity to settle and feel secure,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dublin City Council chief executive, Owen Keegan, has criticised the ‘Home Sweet Home’ campaign, which is occupying Apollo House. “I don’t think this is an appropriate response to a serious homeless situation in Dublin,” Mr Keegan told the Pat Kenny Show, on Newstalk.
“And, in particular, the fact that accommodation is being offered in a building that is substandard, at a time when there is, as of last night, I think, close to 100 beds available in hostels that are professionally managed and that meet all standards,” he said.
“So, I just find it hard to reconcile why anyone would feel the need to accommodate homeless people in a substandard accommodation, when there are beds available, and more than enough beds available in very good quality accommodation, fully professionally- run and -managed facilities,” he said.
Last week, the High Court ordered those occupying the office building to leave by January 11.
Mr Keegan said it was “particularly disturbing” that people with alcohol or drug addictions are not permitted into Apollo House.
“The reality is that a lot of the homeless have complex needs and we don’t discriminate. We try and accommodate everybody. The notion that you would pick and choose, and take some kind of deserving homeless and accommodate them, is a very old-fashioned notion. Certainly, we wouldn’t get away with it.
“It’s not perfect. We’d like to have more accommodation, but there is good-quality accommodation, which poses no risk and provides safety to the occupants,” he said.
Mr Keegan also queried why the conditions at Apollo House are not held to the same scrutiny as the accommodation offered by local authorities.
“I don’t believe there is any immediate risk, but we would be rightly be condemned if we put people in a building that didn’t meet fire-and-safety standards, and I’m kind of surprised that a different attitude has been taken by the public and the media, because of the nature of this particular venture.”
“We don’t offer individual bedrooms, and that is something that, realistically, we can’t offer. But our buildings all meet building regulations and fire-safety standards.
"I don’t believe it is possible, without significant expenditure and structural work, to convert a building that is rated as an office building into a residential accommodation,” he said.
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