APOLLO HOUSE

A year on from the Apollo House oc­cu­pa­tion, Home Sweet Home co-founder Dean Scurry re­flects on the cam­paign’s re­mark­able im­pact – and how Ir­ish so­ci­ety needs to build on its legacy.

Hot Press - - Hot Press / 4121 / Contents - By Michael Lani­gan

A year on from the Apollo House oc­cu­pa­tion, Home Sweet Home co-founder Dean Scurry re­flects on the cam­paign’s re­mark­able im­pact – and how Ir­ish so­ci­ety needs to build on its legacy.

Re­flect­ing on the im­pact of the Ƃpollo House oc­cu­pa­tion £Ó months on, Home -weet Home co-founder Dean -curry q who is also the man­ager of hip-hop act *aul Ƃl­wright ­for­merly Žnown as ethal Di­alect® q says it was an at­tempt to tacŽle the home­less cri­sis from a different an­gle. Ƃ huge national story that high­lighted one of the maor is­sues in mod­ern rish so­ci­ety, the protest q led by a num­ber of high-pro­file per­son­al­i­ties in­clud­ing Glen Hansard and im -heri­dan q saw a team of ac­tivists taŽe over the ama-owned build­ing on Tara -treet in Dublin. n a short pe­riod, they ren­o­vated the premises so that it could house home­less peo­ple over hrist­mas.

º7hat peo­ple are see­ing now is an al­ter­na­tive set of op­tions for those who are home­less,» says -curry. º t of­fered some­thing different. *eo­ple had a place to co-habit based on feel­ings and be­ing loved, and one where they weren½t go­ing to be ŽicŽed out. t½s some­thing rare, even in our cur­rent home­less ser­vices. f you talŽ to peo­ple who are us­ing them, they will say that they have op­tions, but few that are safe or healthy, whether they are choos­ing streets or hos­tels.

º or a per­son who is at­tempt­ing to breaŽ away from ad­dic­tion, even a hos­tel is dif­fi­cult, be­cause you½re fac­ing that plight in there. t is a place where you can½t spend time with fam­ily or loved ones, where you can­not feel in­ti­mate. 7e wanted to offer such an op­tion, and find a space where they could have time to feel emo­tions, to em­brace spir­i­tu­al­ity and feel free. Hu­man­ity and love were what was go­ing for.»

-curry also notes that the oc­cu­pa­tion suc­cess­fully high­lighted the se­ri­ous flaws in the gov­ern­ment½s ap­proach.

ºThe lan­guage of the me­dia and gov­ern­ment was also stripped away,» he says. º7hen stood down at the gates to ad­dress the me­dia and the peo­ple, thinŽ we had to get across the fun­da­men­tal point that home­less­ness was not an iden­tity. t was a sit­u­a­tion forced upon a per­son by cir­cum­stances, as op­posed to be­ing their iden­tity. That idea we set out to chal­lenge, and re­ally, it was such a big one. ecause in con­fronting that, you maŽe the case that peo­ple are more im­por­tant than profit or prop­erty.»

GAME CHANGER ndeed, this was pre­cisely the rea­son for Home -weet Home½s se­lec­tion of Ƃpollo House. *rior to its oc­cu­pa­tion on the night of De­cem­ber £x, the premises had been va­cant for one year, after pre­vi­ously act­ing as of­fices for the Depart­ment of -ocial *ro­tec­tion. Due to be de­mol­ished, the tear­ing down of the build­ing was widely seen as an act of cal­lous­ness, given that there was an es­ti­mated ÓÈä rough sleep­ers in the cap­i­tal. 7ith ama now in charge of the build­ing, Home -weet Home sug­gested they use it to help al­le­vi­ate the home­less cri­sis q al­though as -curry points out, it was a maor bat­tle to taŽe on.

º7e eÝpe­ri­enced the full power of the state, the me­dia and the High ourts say­ing this was some­thing that we couldn½t do,» he says. º t½s very easy to strip down an ac­tivist or a mem­ber of the worŽing class.»

How­ever, what bol­stered the cam­paign was sup­port from the liŽes of Glen Hansard and im -heri­dan. ºThis was part of a nec­es­sary tac­tic,» says -curry. º7e needed a face placed be­fore these eyes that was one they could recog­nise. The me­dia was fa­mil­iar with im, as were our tar­geted au­di­ence of mid­dle re­land. They don½t Žnow Dean -curry from al­ly­mun. im spoŽe their lan­guage and in­formed them after decades of liv­ing com­fort­ably numb.

º ow that they are get­ting sµueeâed too, it is be­com­ing their con­ver­sa­tion around the din­ner ta­ble. This does af­fect them, since they are ¼po­ten­tially home­less½. "ur me­dia cov­er­age was strength­ened by Glen½s ap­pear­ance on The Late Late Show, which was filmed the night we went into Ƃpollo House.»

-curry says one of the real game-changers was so­cial me­dia, which proved to be an in­valu­able way to com­mu­ni­cate the cam­paign½s agenda. Home -weet Home it­self emerged overnight as a ace­booŽ group set-up by +uentin -heri­dan, who had spent Ón years home­less ºon and off». How­ever, it was the plat­form½s live stream­ing ser­vice, which had been rolled out al­most eÝactly one year prior, that be­came a Žey news tool in the fi­nal months of Óä£È.

º efore we started us­ing the plat­form,» says -curry, ºthis was about Óä peo­ple in a room q a few scruffy hip­pies, im -heri­dan and al­ly­mun bloŽes liŽe my­self. Ƃd­ding so­cial me­dia, we sud­denly went from âero to Èx,äää fol­low­ers in a weeŽ. rom an rish ac­tivist view­point, that was phe­nom­e­nal. 7e held our own con­fer­ences and dur­ing those, tooŽ my phone out to stream it. There and then, hundreds of peo­ple were watch­ing from all across the world. t was pow­er­ful, and it be­came a time when we could also turn the lens on our­nal­ists too, to show how they were cov­er­ing this and re­act­ing.

º t wasn½t a case of us hacŽing the sys­tem. t was us learn­ing to use its tools, which gave us con­fi­dence in ev­ery re­spect. on­fi­dence is a deadly weapon, and it meant we longer would obey. This of course wasn½t ac­ci­den­tal. t was pre­med­i­tated and care­fully thought about and be­cause of that, we shared these ideas not typ­i­cally shared by gov­ern­ment or tra­di­tional me­dia.»

NO DEMOC­RACY

-curry had been an ac­tivist for years, al­though he notes, ºbe­ing where ½m from, it½s not re­ally by choice. n al­ly­mun, you al­most turn into an ac­tivist by de­fault. ½m here whether liŽe it or not do­ing this un­til there½s more eµual­ity.» *re­vi­ously, he had taŽen part in the "ccupy Dame -treet protests, which called for the

en­tral anŽ to be held ac­count­able for the fi­nan­cial crash. How­ever, he sug­gests that cam­paign fal­tered around a lacŽ of a clear mes­sage or obec­tive.

ºThis time, we had to maŽe it ob­vi­ous,» he says of Home -weet Home. ºThere were two obec­tives. "ne, no­body should die on the streets over hrist­mas. 1nliŽe with "ccupy, this was not a con­cept too big to be sold. "ur sec­ond was to end home­less­ness, and said this at the gates, even if peo­ple said you could never truly end it.

º7e Žnew the solution to rish so­ci­ety would not be cre­ated in four weeŽs. 7hat we were do­ing was start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, be­cause it needed to be ad­dressed at some point.

º couldn½t let the cen­te­nary of £™£È pass with­out prop­erly marŽing it. re­land has val­ues, and as we cel­e­brated those val­ues, felt we should give them to the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.º

7hen it came to recog­ni­tion, -curry re­called one visit he and his col­leagues paid to a pri­mary school in -words. ºThey staged a play in rish called Teach Apollo. t brought tears to my eyes. 7e saw a £ä- year-old girl play a home­less woman who died on the streets and whose body is dragged away. That blew my mind,

º"ur cur­rent is­sue is democ­racy, which am not sure there is. f the peo­ple want to call for an emer­gency, and the fig­ures they elected to serve will not acŽnowl­edge this, then there isn½t a democ­racy. 7e still need to carry on hav­ing the awŽward con­ver­sa­tions as peo­ple with vested in­ter­ests throw in their two cents, such as

ileen Glee­son QDirec­tor of the Dublin Hous­ing ,egional Ýec­u­tiveR, who said home­less­ness was caused by ¼bad be­hav­iour½. 7e need to chal­lenge this,» Dean con­cludes. º f there½s no re­spect given to­wards in­di­vid­u­als, there isn½t a democ­racy.»

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