Its Tuesday 3rd of January and the location is on a street known in Dublin City as Tara Street. Its near noon as I approach Apollo House and any negative feelings of a low turn out that I had quickly disappear as I am greeted by at least 200 to 250 people. Apollo House on Tara Street here in Dublin City has been in the media a lot over the Christmas period as you may recall it was taken over by at least two housing activists groups known as simply, Home Sweet Home and Irish Housing Network. They have taken over an empty building belonging to NAMA, and have turned it in to a homeless shelter for at least 40 rough sleepers. They have been in court just before the Christmas and a judge has given them up to the 11th January to vacate this building.
Once I take my place outside Apollo House I am surprised by the amount of media who turn up to cover this event. While we wait for the organizers to come out and lead this peaceful march we are entertained by at least four members of a group who plays us some uplifting tunes. Once everyone is ready and all the banners have been placed in front of the march its time to march on. The first road on route we cover is Tara Street, then out to D’Oiler Street then we head up on to College Green.
We are been well entertained as the group who was playing the music are now leading this march. It would be safe to say passing traffic alike could probably hear the music before they heard the crowd chanting and singing. The mood is up beat and despite the cold weather the ones who where there appeared to be in a very happy mood. Local business owners come out of their premises to see what is going on despite the march slowing down traffic on their streets they appear to show support to this march.
As we progressed along the route we could see tourists who where standing on the pavements waiting on either taxis or buses with their cases looking on shocked to see the march passing them by, it appeard they knew nothing of our homeless crisis or anything about this march but it did not stop them from talking out their cameras and snapping away.
As we progressed on the route I could not see any members of the Gardai either directing the traffic or the march, despite efforts of been allergy been invited. In fact we did not see any members of the Gardai till we hit the last leg of the route up on to Merrion Square.
We then went up Nassau Street then up Clare Street then up on to Merrion Square West then on to the Department Of Finance. There was a big push by the media to get on to the steps directly outside this building to get the best advantage spot. Two uniform Gardai where there also a petition was then handed in to a member of staff to be given to the minister of finance Mr. Micheal Noonan. Once the petition was handed in at least three speakers spoke and one of them a volunteer, a lady from Apollo house gave a speech informing why they have taken over Apollo house.
Another man by the name of Mitzaol gave us his personal story how he became homeless and when he was placed in temporary accommodation his struggle with having to share a room with people addicted to heroin and some of them where smoking or injecting themselves in front of him and he stressed he could not relax and fall asleep he went on to say he decided to take his chance and stay on the streets it was then he learned about Apollo House.
Another young lady explained she too was only out of hospital and was quite ill had to share rooms with other people whom some of them where also injecting themselves with heroin on a daily basic. She asked to be moved and she was rehoused in another emergency shelter, a B+B and having to share a kitchen and all the house appliances etc with at least 9 families who where also living at this emergency shelter. She went on to say she had to share a washing machine and the rest of the house appliances with these 9 family’s and it got to the stage that she just sat in her room to keep out of their way as she felt she was only in their way.
This march ended at 1.20 PM and some of these people made their way back towards Apollo House.
The message from this march was simple Home Sweet Home wanted the minister of finance Mr Micheal Noonan, to free up the large stock of NAMA units and residential homes and give them out to the homeless and people waiting to be housed here in Ireland.
Image Credit: Alan Finn