While Rosi Leonard, our volunteer media coordinator has the @ireland twitter account this week, we think it’s a good idea to answer questions we’ve been asked about Apollo House, about what goes on here, about the #HomeSweetHome campaign and about the future past January 11th.
Where possible we’ll ask the people directly responsible for the relevant part – e.g volunteering, support, donations etc – the question and share the answer with you.
Here are the questions we’ve been asked on Twitter – as soon as we have replies, we’ll update both the twitter account and this document. You can also add questions below and we’ll update this note with answers too.
We take each question at face value, but we ask you to understand (a) we mightn’t have the full answer immediately, but we’ll find it for you, and (b) not all questions can be answered in public, but where we can’t, we’ll endeavour to explain why. Please note: these aren’t in any particular order, yet.
Our response: Apollo House was taken over by NAMA meaning that it’s paid for by the people of Ireland. This is the worst homeless crisis Ireland has experienced. With these empty buildings, it doesn’t make sense not to be using them for social good, especially as a temporary measure to ensure people have shelter and don’t have to sleep on the streets.
Our response: Conversations have been ongoing regarding the homeless crisis, circulating between different housing groups which have been building relationships and formulating ideas for months. The takeover of Apollo House is a combination of their work. The Irish Times published a good article covering this here: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/soci…
Our response: We have one dorm, which provide beds for 13 male residents. We also have several single private rooms, private couple rooms and 3×2 shared bedrooms. Each resident is placed in a room based on their wants and needs.
People generally do not know each other before being placed in Apollo, however there is great sense of community and respect for each others personal space. Regarding the twin rooms , each resident will be assessed on needs and placed on both people’s requirements; if someone has complex needs, they’re not put in dorms or with others.
You can see a video showing inside the male dorm below:
and a video inside one of the couple’s bedrooms here:
Our response: For the most part, each new resident has been referred to us through the Irish Housing Network, soup kitchens or our outreach team, who have been working with the homeless for a long time; this has allowed them to build long term relationships and know who would be suitable for Apollo House.
These groups have really gotten to know the backgrounds of the homeless, who are also generally forthcoming with their information.
Our main priority is to check that each person who wants to come to Apollo House has checked first with existing agencies and shelters – everyone from Dublin City Council Homeless Services to the Dublin Simon Community, Focus Ireland, Merchants Quay, the Peter McVerry Trust and the others providing services and shelter.
We advocate for people who come to Apollo House all the time with different services, including the Dublin City Council Central Placement Service.
When placing new residents, we have a very thorough process, each person meets a support team who will assess and identify their needs. The safety and security of our residents is our main priority, so we have ground rules in place, as listed below.
At the moment (Friday 6 January) we have 29 residents. We have on average ten people who come to our gates a night, we try an aid these to the best of our ability, we ask them questions such as:
1. Where were you tonight?
2. What do you need right now?
3. Do you need a care pack?
4. Have you tried services like Dublin Simon, Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland, Merchants Quay?
5. Did you have any luck there?
A lot of people really are not comfortable in hostels – as you’re not guaranteed a night’s sleep.
This process has lead us to build a 3 page waiting list, which we also take into consideration when taking in a new resident.
Our response: As outlined above, it’s a combination of soup kitchens, Irish Housing Network and our own outreach team, all of which are manned by people known to members of our own Support Team and who would have built relationships and know people on the streets very well.
Our response: The money is being spent of the safety and security of the residents, which is our main priority.
This includes various aspects of the upkeep of the Apollo House, such as the heating of the building – since the beginning operation of Apollo, we have had to refill the oil 3 times.
We also use money provided by the public to source necessities, which cannot be supplied through donations for example bottled water – the water that is running through Apollo has been lying idle for many years, like this building.
The money donated will also be used on the Home Sweet Home campaign to end homelessness, more details will be provided on this in coming days.
However, the most important point to emphasise again, is that the money donated via the GoFundMe campaign is not being used on staff or legal expenses; we are all volunteers in Apollo, as we all believe that everyone deserves a to sleep in a clean and safe environment, which is the main priority for each of us. Security services, volunteer expenses and other costs that would usually be covered by a fund of this type are donated to us.
Our response: Everyone on the Home Sweet Home campaign and in Apollo House is a volunteer. Residents who are available to work have joined maintenance, support, finance and media teams and help out when and where they can. The Home Sweet Home campaign has also employed professional Security personnel for the safety of residents and volunteers.
Our response: We have high standards of safety in Apollo House. Many residents have said that this is the safest place they’re have experienced becoming homeless. We also have set rules and agreements, which residents and volunteer both respect.
We do have running water and heating, which is covered by the money which has been donated by the public.
Our response: No. Legally we are obliged by court order to leave Apollo House at noon on January 11, 2016.
Our response: The Government as a body have been quiet regarding Apollo house. However, Home Sweet Home is not affiliated with any political parties which are not allowed on site, but if welcome any party that wishes to support us. The President of Ireland has indicated his support.
Our response: Yes, Apollo House is a dry venue. No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises, by either residents or any of the volunteers.
Our response: Yes, many of our volunteers are Support Workers, Medics, training as nurses and if there’s a need a resident has that we can’t take on, we will refer to a service who has the resources to help them.
We also have some Volunteers who are trained in the HSE Suicide awareness and Safe Talk and assist programmes. We request specific qualifications when looking for supports.
Our response: For some of our supports yes, we ask for documented proof. We are working closely with the Irish Housing Network and outreach teams who are linked with support networks who refer Volunteers and a lot of our Volunteers are coming from different charities both past and present. There are a wide variety of qualifications – everything from Social Care to medical to counselling – all are based on the needs of the residents in Apollo House.
Our response: We’ve answered these above. Again, it’s very much based on the individual needs of each person and whether Apollo House is suitable for them. If a different, official service is available to them, we strongly recommend they go there first. We work with different services to ensure our residents find more suitable accommodation.
Our response: Support is available, based on the sometimes complex needs of each resident. If we do not have the support required by a resident available, we will contact alternative services to find suitable shelter for the person. We don’t just say “NO” to someone – we’ll place them with a suitable service, travelling with them and getting them set up and placed if necessary.
Our response: We have no more than 40 residents in Apollo House at any time – this is part of the court order made on December 21st. There’s a mix of ages and backgrounds – our youngest resident is in their early twenties, our oldest in their fifties. The majority of our residents as of Friday 6 January are Irish.
Our response: This was very much based on the requirements of each individual – whether Apollo House would be suitable for them; their referral from Soup Kitchens and people in mobile outreach teams who had gotten to know the person; the assessment of them either by our Support team or the Peter McVerry Trust team who come in daily. Each resident is spoken to daily and we are linked with other services that may be more suitable for each person.
Regarding 11 January – this evolves daily based on the progress of the campaign. At time of writing, we are awaiting the results of a meeting between the Home Sweet Home campaign and a meeting with Minister Simon Coveney.
Our response: Yes, in that social workers and social care professionals are volunteering their time and services here. Each resident’s needs are matched with the skills that our Support Staff can provide.
We are always on the look out for new Support Volunteers who can add their skills and help our residents. To find out more or to apply, please send us a message on Facebook.
Our response: There’s a long answer about the best way to move forward from here (for those in Apollo House and in the Irish Housing Network) that will emerge in the coming weeks and months. At the moment it’s evolving day to day and we are working with the Agencies that exist to help people experiencing homelessness to make sure all our residents are looked after.
The best way to help the homeless in day to day life is twofold:
1. People experiencing homelessness are, first and foremost, people and should be treated as such, regardless of gender, nationality, religious beliefs or non beliefs, ethnicity, sexuality or any other distinguishing factor. Treat homeless people as people first, their situation second. Talk to them. Ask them if they need help and if they do need help, what they need.
2. Help and support the many Charities and Organisations that work with people experiencing homelessness, including, but not limited to:
The Peter McVerry Trust
Inner City Helping Homeless
Simon Communities of Ireland
The Dublin Simon Community
Merchants Quay Ireland
SVP – Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ireland
Capuchin Soup Kitchen
Sonas Domestic Violence Charity
The Salvation Army, Dublin City Corps
The Salvation Army Ireland Division
Donate what you can to them – be it clothing, money, non-perishable food, your time or ideas. Check in with each organisation and see what they need. They are best positioned to tell you what people require.
If volunteers can come into Apollo House with their time and creativity and create what we have here from an abandoned building, what could you do with other organisations?
Our response: Apollo house was never intended to replace homeless services and shouldn’t have to exist in the first place. This is a horrible crisis, but the support has been massive – it shows that the people of Ireland want a solution for this issue and that it’s not going away by itself. As to what happens next? That is something we have to start thinking about as a society
Our response: Apollo House doesn’t “solicit” cash donations as such, but, including the GoFundMe appeal that was set up on December 14, each expense money is spent on is receipted, recorded by our Finance Team and properly accounted for. The money being raised is for the Home Sweet Home campaign and all that entails as covered in this Irish Times article.
We will also be publishing financial accounts.
As covered on Newstalk we are contacting SIPO, the Standards In Public Office Commission. We are also getting legal advice around the regulation involved in this and will have an update in the coming days.
Also, despite the preparation involved in the Home Sweet Home Campaign, #ApolloHouse is only 22 days old and we genuinely did not expect the level of support we have received. We will update people as we go.
Our response: We’re very open to talking to anyone who can help us end homelessness.
Our response: As listed above, if you’d like to make a cash donation to homeless services, please choose one – there’s a great list on the Citizen’s Information website here.
To make a donation to the Irish Housing Network, please see their website: http://irishhousingnetwork.org/
We do have a good relationship with our local Gardaí – Pearse Street station is less than 2 minutes walk away, but we also have in-house Security who work with our Support teams in keeping our residents and volunteers secure and safe.
We think these are all the questions we have been asked but if there are more that we haven’t answered, please let us know!