"It's not about the beds: it's about dignity" - Glen Hansard on Apollo House

Glen Hansard and film director Jim Sheridan spoke to Pat Kenny about the 'Home Sweet Home' campaign

"It's not about the beds: it's about dignity" - Glen Hansard on Apollo House

Glen Hansard performing during a rooftop concert at Apollo House in Dublin. Image: RollingNews.ie

Musician Glen Hansard says a 'magical energy' has build up around the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin by homelessness campaigners.

The 'Home Sweet Home' campaign has captured the public imagination over the last week, with a huge social media response supplementing the Apollo House campaign itself.

On Wednesday, the High Court granted an injunction to the receivers of the NAMA owned building - ordering the campaigners and residents who have been occupying the property to vacate. However, they will be allowed stay until January 11th.

Yesterday, representatives of the Peter McVerry Trust visited the building, and the Irish Housing Network said the two organisations have "agreed to work together in the best interests of the residents of Apollo House".

In a statement on Facebook, the network said: "Eight residents of Apollo House have made the decision to look and see if they will want to avail of 6-month secure accommodation offered via the Peter McVerry Trust. The forty residents of Apollo House have been offered long term accommodation with the homeless service, and those that do will have two days to decide if they want to stay in that accommodation.

"After those two days, those beds in Apollo House will be re-opened for other people in situations of homelessness that would otherwise be sleeping rough, as Apollo House was never intended to replace homeless services, but to help deal with the overflow they cannot handle," it adds.

Speaking to Pat Kenny this morning, Glen Hansard - one of the public faces of the 'Home Sweet Home' campaign - said: "It's been an extraordinary experience. We went in a week and a day ago, and we've all been learning as we go.

"A lot of the people working there... are doing an incredible job. This is a three-headed affair: There's the likes of myself and Jim [Sheridan], there's the unions, and then there's the Irish Housing Network."

He praised the 'amazing work' being done by charities such as the Simon Community and Peter McVerry trust, and "we would never in a million years try to compete with that" - instead, they are looking to start a national conversation.

Glen explained that 'dignity' is a core guiding force behind the Apollo House project.

"We work on a simple principle," he told Pat. "You come in, you're there all day, you've got your own room and key... It's your home. This is 'Home Sweet Home'.

"If you give people a little bit of space, it's incredible how much dignity is around that idea. There are people in Apollo House saying 'oh my god, I got to close the door'. One couple saying 'we got to have sex for the first time in so long'. Like, that's beautiful. Most hostels won't allow couples together.

He added: "There are people in Dublin who would prefer to sleep on the street than to sleep in [emergency accommodation]. This whole thing about beds and numbers... it's like ticking boxes. It's not about the beds - it's about dignity."

"The whole point of this from the very beginning for me - and I can only speak for me, because there are many people involved in this - this was about 'you've crossed a threshold of decency, and we have to step in'. Not 'we, the superheroes' - we, the people".

Film director Jim Sheridan is one of the key figures behind Home Sweet Home, and was in studio with Pat.

On the future of the project, he observed: "I think we're going to have to have some kind of conference or get together to decide what our attitude is, whether we believe there are correct proposals in place.

"I think it's hit a nerve, and it's about time we passed the self-hatred of the NAMA era," he added.

He also spoke about the court process they experienced earlier this week, arguing that the courts are like a "Kafka-esque nightmare" for lay litigants.

He suggested that if the Apollo House occupiers had have been forced to leave before Christmas, "we were afraid [...] there'd be a riot down there.

"There's a lot of boiled-up anger, both about the homeless and the entire housing situation. You can feel it."