More than 1,400 homeless across rural Ireland, says charity

Peter McVerry Trust report shows more than 12% increase in homelessness outside cities

The number of adults without a home in rural areas hit 1,000 for the first time in May 2019. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

The number of adults without a home in rural areas hit 1,000 for the first time in May 2019. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Rural homelessness is the “forgotten problem” in the housing debate but the situation outside of cities is worsening, the head of a housing charity has said.

More than 1,400 people were homeless across rural Ireland in July 2019, a 12 per cent increase on the same time last year, a report by the Peter McVerry Trust has found. This figures represents 15 per cent of the total homeless population in the State.

The number of adults without a home in rural areas hit 1,000 for the first time in May 2019, and the majority of those in homelessness are single people or couples, the charity added.

Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships on Tuesday, Pat Doyle, chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said that while the problem was getting worse, it is a “fixable problem”.

“Over the years, homelessness in rural Ireland has been viewed as hidden,” Mr Doyle said. “Homeless people in rural areas head to cities to remain anonymous and that adds to the hiddenness. But the fact is 15 per cent of all homeless people in the country come from rural Ireland.”

“They all have a story, they all have a history, they all have a family. The fact is, most people know who they are. People know who that person is. They hang around the centres.”

The charity has proposed three ways of reducing the number of people living in rural Ireland who are without homes: using the Housing First programme, the repair and lease scheme and the buy and renew scheme.

“Housing First is about giving a homeless person the house first and then giving them the supports after they’re in the house instead of putting them in a hostel bed until they sober up before we give them a home,” Mr Doyle said.

“We don’t need to build new houses to solve this problem. Everyone knows, driving into any town or village, there’s empty properties all through the towns,” he added.