'Home Sweet Home' activists march from Apollo House to Department of Finance

An open letter calls on Minister Noonan to compel NAMA to use vacant properties to house homeless people

'Home Sweet Home' activists march from Apollo House to Department of Finance

Image: RollingNews.ie

The occupiers of Apollo House in Dublin marched to the Department of Finance this afternoon, calling on Michael Noonan to end the homelessness crisis.

Around 200 people gathered outside the occupied NAMA building in the city centre, before marching to the department's offices.

Video: Sean Defoe

The 'Home Sweet Home' group suggests that the Finance Minister can compel NAMA to use vacant properties to house homeless people.

Legislation allows Michael Noonan to issue a direction to NAMA under its remit to 'contribute to the social and economic development of the state'.

A letter with more than 3,500 signatures was delivered to the Minister by activists today.

The open letter - which is available to read and sign here - calls on the Finance Minister to direct NAMA 'to make proper and adequate housing stock immediately available' to local authorities.

The letter states: "HSH, in Apollo House, has been offering vital support to homeless people by providing them with safe and supported accommodation which includes a holistic assessment of their wider needs. As a consequence of the Apollo House service, more than 100 homeless people have been allocated temporary six-month accommodation by the Peter McVerry Trust.

"However, as already stated, the homelessness crisis continues to worsen and it is imperative that the government now takes urgent action to address it."

In a statement this afternoon, the Department of Finance said they would consider the content of the open letter and issue a response.

The statement says: "NAMA has already been active in this space and have offered almost 7,000 units to local authorities for use as social housing.  NAMA advise that of these local authorities have taken up c. 2,400 units for social housing use.

"NAMA also has plans to facilitate the delivery of 20,000 private residential units on sites securing its loans in Dublin and its surrounds in the period to 2020."

It adds: "The availability of housing is the key priority for Government and has been the focus of a number of measures introduced under the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland Plan. The Department of Finance, the Minister for Finance, and NAMA continue to support that work."

A judge last month granted an injunction directing occupiers of Apollo House to leave the building - although put a stay on the order until January 11th, ensuring Home Sweet Home could continue offering accommodation over the Christmas period.

The occupiers of Apollo House say they will not leave next week unless every homeless person in the building is housed.

Tommy Gavin from Home Sweet Home says NAMA needs to be part of the solution.

"I think this is an opportunity for maybe the first big, proper, public conversation about NAMA," he suggested. "It has powers to build even, and there's huge opportunities there."