Protests were held across Ireland against Housing Minister Simon Coveney today after he backed out of pledges to provide accommodation for Dublin’s homeless population in exchange for the ending of a popular occupation of Apollo House.
Irish anarchist organisation the Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) hit out at “the landlord’s TD” as rallies took place in Dublin and seven other towns and cities over Coveney’s failure to properly rehouse homeless people currently being supported at the building.
The squat, which was opened by the Home Sweet Home campaign in December and has been backed by a succession of celebrity voices, has aimed to provide for some of Ireland’s 6,500 “officially homeless” people while putting pressure on the Dáil to open up funding.
The occupiers were taken to court to evict, but pledged to stand firm until concessions had been made, and on January 4th Coveney agreed to secure placements for everyone in the building — as well as spending €4 million on two new facilities for homeless people in the capital.
A few days later however the High Court issued an injunction to evict, and last night it emerged that Coveney has failed to deliver on the terms he agreed. In a statement, WSM said:
Protests are taking place outside Apollo house and across the country in response to this betrayal.
Like many other TDs Coveney is a landlord, we know he earns at least 2600 a month from landlordism – it could be a lot more, TDs are only required to declare that there are landlords if they earn more than that figure, they are not required to say how much more. For landlords homelessness plays an essential role in keeping tenants in a state of insecurity and fear, it makes us feel we have no other choice but to pay rent increases.
With a lot of the bottom end of rented accommodation being overcrowded and substandard such landlords have a strong interest in making emergency homeless accommodation as unpleasant as possible. The sight of people sleeping in doorways keeps their tenants paying. Likewise banks who sold people mortgages that are now almost impossible to pay have a strong interest in maximising the fear of eviction.
Neither group could have liked the deal Coveney agreed to, as it threatened to create a floor below which the homeless wouldn’t fall and that might reduce that fear factor. So it’s not that surprising that when the minister returned from the discussion he came under pressure from that sector to tear up what had been agreed.
In its own statement, Home Sweet Home explained:
Eight residents have been forced to return to Apollo House after being offered sub-standard accommodation by Dublin City Council with one man given a bedroom with blood on the walls, mattress and sink as well as syringes on the ground.
Other residents have reported threats of violence, no food available, no washing machine available and of other residents in the accommodation they were offered getting drunk injecting and smoking heroin in rooms. One reported hearing a gang threatening to stomp another resident soon. These kinds of deplorable conditions are what forced the residents to sleep rough on the streets in the first place instead of going to existing shelters.
The HSH campaign has set a minimum standard for the quality of accommodation provided to homeless people and the movement will not accept these inhumane conditions. These minimum standards are focused around the residents’ specific individual needs being met, both when they immediately enter the service, and in the long term.
Today Home Sweet Home return to the High Court which has issued an injunction against the occupation. As we revealed at the time of the court case the High Court has issued multiple ‘eviction by injunctions’ against large occupied buildings over the last two years and on the day of that case all of these building were still lying vacant. (video)
In advance of the case the campaigners say “Home Sweet Home will, as per the agreement, only leave when the residents’ immediate needs have been met. The needs of the residents as of this evening have not been met, and only when they have been met will the residents and Home Sweet Home be leaving Apollo House.