Charity says pandemic eased the rental market for the homeless

Peter McVerry Trust offers 1,300 people keys to their own doors in the past year


The Peter McVerry Trust had its best year to date last year in delivering homes to homeless people, partly because of an “inadvertent” consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trust’s chief executive, Pat Doyle, said that while Covid-19 had been a huge challenge in other ways, the organisation was in a position to “offer 1,300 people the key to the door last year”.

“Landlords who were in the private market and would have gone to the Googles and Intels and so on, a lot of [those workers] did not come over [to Ireland during the pandemic]. Quite a number of landlords came our way last year,” he said.

“We had a really good move-on rate last year. The challenge for us as the market picks up, and business begins to go again, is that we continue to hold that market. We can show we can be a good landlord.”

Mr Doyle was speaking at a new eight-apartment development by the trust at New Street in Dublin 8, which will take people off the Dublin City Council homeless list or provide permanent homes to young adults coming out of care.

He was also launching the trust’s annual report, along with founder Fr Peter McVerry and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

‘Dream come true’

David Dodrill, one of the people who acquired an apartment on New Street, said it was a “dream come true” for him after years of homelessness and overcoming addiction.

“It’s fantastic. I can live here, stay here, it will allow me to look for work,” he said.

Mr Doyle said the trust would be delivering six similar developments this year. The New Street apartments – five one-beds and three two-beds – were built on a brownfield site at a cost of €275,000 per unit, far lower than market prices.

He said such developments were going after single homeless people, the “stubborn group” in the numbers which tend not to come down.

Mr O’Brien said child and family homeless was down about 40 per cent year on year, with individual homelessness down about 20 per cent. He said developments such as the New Street one were important as “we have a very serious issue in relation to singles and homelessness”.

Fr McVerry said the development showed that “small is beautiful”.

“After years on a social housing list, or after years going from hostel to hostel, to have a place like this of your own is absolutely beautiful,” he said.

In his message in the annual report, Fr McVerry said the ban on evictions was a key factor in the reduced number of homeless people, with the total falling from 9,900 in March of last year to 8,200 in December. It included a reduction of almost 1,000 in the number of homeless children.

The trust worked with 7,800 people last year in 28 local authority areas and also opened a family hub in Galway city. The organisation is now responsible for more than 60 per cent of the national Housing First target, which aims to provide housing for the long-term homeless and rough sleepers in the State.