Homeless crisis: ‘When I first came in here I couldn’t believe it was for me’

Joe Shannon was destitute when the Housing First scheme was deployed by the McVerry trust

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy with Minister for Health Simon Harris chat to Joe Shannon in St Agatha’s Court, North William Street, Dublin where they launched a homeless initiative. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy with Minister for Health Simon Harris chat to Joe Shannon in St Agatha’s Court, North William Street, Dublin where they launched a homeless initiative. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

Joe Shannon had been homeless for over four years when he was offered a one-bedroom flat, owned by the Peter McVerry Trust, under the Housing First model a year ago.

The 55-year-old had been sleeping on friends’ and family members’ couches as well as in hostels after he lost his bedsit in Cabra in 2013. The loss of his home happened after the enactment of legislation banning such units.

“I had me own place but because of that law the landlord sold up. I couldn’t afford anywhere else so I ended sleeping all over the place. In the end I had to go homeless,” says Shannon.

“So I was in a homeless place on the Phibsborough Road for about 2½ years. Then the Peter McVerry [Trust] took it over. And about three months after I got a place on Mountjoy Square.”

This was also shared emergency accommodation. After several years there he was told by his key worker he had been selected for housing under the Housing First Programme.

“When I first came in here couldn’t I believe it was for me,” he says, looking around his small apartment in the north inner city. “I thought they must have made a mistake. It took me about three weeks to believe I was staying here; [I] kept expecting a knock on the door telling me I had to go.”

Joe Shannon welcomes the ministerial duo to his home. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Joe Shannon welcomes the ministerial duo to his home. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

So unsure was he that he could stay he felt uncomfortable sleeping there, staying some nights at his daughter’s. But he “got over that”.

“I get a lot of help from the McVerry people. I’d have been lost without Emma who was always calling me, helping me with forms. I think back sometimes to when I was homeless, when I’m at my door having a cigarette and it’s raining. That was no life. This is a big difference.”