Failure to defuse homeless crisis slated by archbishop

Church of Ireland prelate rails against inept policymakers and the misery of destitution

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson: “As Fr Peter McVerry’s friend said, with the honesty of those who have nothing to lose: ‘nobody cares’.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson: “As Fr Peter McVerry’s friend said, with the honesty of those who have nothing to lose: ‘nobody cares’.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Increasing homelessness, direct provision and the reality of people dying on the streets have been criticised forcefully by Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson.

“The continuing incapacities of policymakers in Ireland to address the misery and the indignity of raw homelessness for children and adults, of what is euphemistically called direct provision, and the unthinkable scandal of people dying on the streets, were brought home forcefully to anyone who heard Fr Peter McVerry speak recently,” said the Most Rev Michael Jackson in his Christmas message.

Describing Fr McVerry as “the Christian conscience of contemporary Ireland”, he recalled how the priest had, during The Walk of Light across Dublin’s inner city churches, “told the story of a homeless young person whom he knew well. That young person said to him, ‘Peter, the thing about homelessness is that nobody cares. The young person subsequently took his own life’.”

Turbulent priest or voice of reason?

The archbishop continued: “Journeying to no purpose, journeying with no outcome, journeying with no trusted companionship all too often fill the waking hours of those rejected and stigmatised today whether by rural or by urban poverty and alienation.”

More and more people in today’s Ireland “didn’t expect that by seeking asylum they would end up in direct provision, that by falling behind in mortgage payments or lapsing into rent arrears they would end up in emergency accommodation, that by going on to the streets to live they might indeed die on the streets. For more and more people, the gradient annually becomes harder to climb and the sense of purpose fades,” he said.

Christians were invited “to make connections of grace and generosity with people just like themselves who have found that their journey has led them to direct provision, to emergency accommodation and to rough sleeping.

“As Fr Peter McVerry’s friend said, with the honesty of those who have nothing to lose: ‘nobody cares’.”