Apollo House sit-in: ‘Solidarity, brother, that’s what this is about’

More than 200 beds will be made available for rough sleepers in the capital this week and this morning there is a hearing in the High Court to halt the illegal occupation of Apollo House on fire safety grounds.

Apollo House sit-in: ‘Solidarity, brother, that’s what this is about’

Overlooked by the Department of Health and adjacent to Dublin Fire Brigade, Apollo House has become about far more than beds, the law or fire safety.

It has become about civilian action in a time of apparent powerlessness.

It has given previously invisible, voiceless citizens a national platform to be seen and heard.

Yesterday lunchtime, more than 1,000 people gathered for a free concert to mark the official opening of Apollo House as a homeless shelter.

Up on the first-floor balcony Hozier, Glen Hansard and Kodaline performed songs alongside some of its residents.

These homeless people were VIPs at this gig.

Without microphones, the musicians sang and played their instruments; guitars, French horns and a plastic bucket as a drum, while the residents of Apollo House roused the crowd.

“We are Home Sweet Home,” one resident shouted as he threw down white T-shirts with the campaign’s logo emblazoned on them.

He told his audience that 10,000 are being printed for the city.

“Solidarity, brother, that’s what this is about,” he whispered to a friend beside him.

“Amazing,” his friend replied, nodding towards the large lunchtime crowd.

On the sidelines, homeless people came and went, putting their name down on a circulating piece of paper, presumably a waiting list for a bed in Dublin’s newest shelter.

Inside Apollo House. Video Stills from Irish Housing Network
Inside Apollo House. Video Stills from Irish Housing Network

At the same time, the receivers appointed to the building were down in the High Court in an attempt to have the premises vacated.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

But regardless of the outcome of the High Court hearing, the takeover has become about action and empathy, says Hozier.

“It’s an incredible showing of our people’s moral fibre and of empathy,” he told the Irish Examiner.

Inside Apollo House. Video Stills from Irish Housing Network
Inside Apollo House. Video Stills from Irish Housing Network

“The people have created a solution for a problem that the Government has decided not to address. It’s a remarkable showing of empathy, a showing of dignity to people who have been suffering greatly.

“I suppose at most even if all that can be achieved is the treatment of human beings with dignity and to show the Government that people are not willing to stand by and there is a moral fibre of the people that is not reflected in what we’ve been given so far,” he added.

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