Homelessness now worse than ever, says McVerry

Government must provide housing, says head of trust

Fr Peter McVerry:  said  political leadership was needed to end homelessness as charities could only do so much.Photograph: Alan Betson

Fr Peter McVerry: said political leadership was needed to end homelessness as charities could only do so much.Photograph: Alan Betson


For the second time in as many days, a leading charity working with the homeless has claimed that the problem is at its worst for decades.

Fr Peter McVerry, the founder of the trust for the homeless that bears his name, said that political leadership was needed to end homelessness as charities could only do so much.

“After 30 years of working to eliminate homelessness, I believe the problem is now worse than ever, perhaps even out of control,” he said on publication of the trust’s annual report. “Homelessness is a political problem, ultimately the problem of homelessness can only be solved by providing homes for homeless people and that is the responsibility of the Government.”

The Department of the Environment defended the Government’s homelessness policy, however. A spokesman said that the “housing-led” policy sought to ensure “that those people who become homeless are moved into long-term, stable accommodation as quickly as possible and that we bring an end to the current situation whereby people who are homeless are housed in emergency accommodation, often in the private sector, for extended periods of time”.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan had appointed a three-person oversight group to monitor implementation of the new-build programme, which was focused on housing for the elderly, people with a disability and people who are homeless.

Temporary accommodation
In its report, the Peter McVerry Trust said that in 2012, it gave temporary accommodation to 1,708 individuals and residential placements to 419 others. On a budget of €7.3 million (€4.6 million provided by the Government; €2.7 million coming from its own sources), the trust had also acquired 24 apartments. The trust now provides temporary accommodation for homeless people via 15 beds in the Fingal County Council area, 29 beds in Dublin City Council area, and 16 beds in the South Dublin County Council area across five locations – Finglas, Santry, Conyngham Road, Aungier Street and Tallaght.

In addition, in 2012, the trust provided 57,000 hot meals to users of its services, 80 per cent of whom were male and 74 per cent of whom were aged between 18 and 35. The trust also works with drug abusers, trying to help 420 people in 2012 (an increase of 100 per cent on the previous year). It noted that 71 per cent of methadone and cannabis addicts who attended detox programmes completed them.

Solving the problem
Pat Doyle, chief executive of the trust said delivering permanent accommodation was essential to solving the problem of homelessness.

“The essential element of the housing first model is the rapid housing of individuals in their own accommodation. This means we need to have access to stable housing units where we can place homeless individuals and build the necessary supports around them.”

Launching its pre-budget submission yesterday, Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said it remained legal for landlords and insurance companies to discriminate against people on rent supplement welfare assistance by refusing them tenancies and insurance cover for properties they occupied.

He urged the Government to alter the system of rent support to “respond to the complex needs” of clients with varying income levels. “Every budget to now has been an accounting exercise and we understand why that was. This budget is the start of seeing the benefits of that, the start of creating a better society,” he said.