‘Our ultimate objective was to eliminate homelessness’
Peter McVerry is marking three decades of fighting deprivation in Dublin
“Some organisations have gone quiet because of their dependence on public funding,” Fr McVerry said.
“I have never felt under any pressure to tone down what I’m saying from the trust – and I wouldn’t. I get so angry at the way homeless people are ignored and treated . . . I say what I feel and I’ll continue to do that.”
For the past eight years, the man steering the development of the trust has been Pat Doyle.
He joined the organisation as part of a drive to improve its corporate governance and management team, key factors in attracting State funding.
The trust has expanded rapidly to meet ever-growing demand. It plans to grow further still, increasing the number of apartments for tenants from 90 to 300 in coming years.
While there are many homeless services operating in Ireland, Mr Doyle said, the trust stood apart in that it offered an “open door to the young and the most vulnerable”.
It is now moving towards a “housing first” policy, aimed at getting homeless people out of emergency beds as soon as possible. The idea is that a home can have a stabilising effect on a vulnerable person. But it doesn’t always work out as intended.
“One lad had a party in his apartment on the first night and got arrested. He had half a dozen people in there the next night. They stripped it. We got it back in bits,” Mr Doyle said.
“But, his mother fundraised for us, and we’ve got over it. But this young lad needed a second chance. He’s now moved into his own apartment again, drug-free, and is applying for access to visit his children on Saturdays. We want to do that on a wider scale.”
Billy Shelley (31) has also benefitted from the trust’s work. He ended up homeless as a teenager and ricocheted from hostel to hostel across town for years. Now he has his own place and is getting his life back together.
“I had my own problems. People closed the door on me, but Peter always kept the door open. He’d listen to what I’d have to say, try to help you out. There was always a bit of compassion there,” Mr Shelley said.
He’s since gone through a range of programmes: detox for drug addiction, support services and aftercare. “I’ve been able to progress my life. I’m in recovery now. I have my own apartment,” he added.
“Being in the Áras today, and meeting the President, is something I never thought I’d do... I’ve applied for college, hoping to study youth and community . . . I’m finding that recovery is contagious – it rubs off on other people. Give people a chance, and they’ll take it.”