Solution to growing rural homelessness problem put forward

McVerry Trust seeks to lease vacants from owners, renovate them and generate rent

Homelessness is a growing problem in rural areas. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Homelessness is a growing problem in rural areas. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Homelessness is a growing problem in rural areas but solutions to the issue exist, a panel discussion at the National Ploughing Championships has heard.

Francis Doherty, who works with the Peter McVerry Trust, said there were about 250,000 empty properties across the State and that the restoration of 600 of these would go a long way to solving the problem of rural destitution.

He noted an initiative, undertaken by the trust working with local authorities, where inspections were made of small-town streets to identify unoccupied properties.

Following this reconnaissance, an attempt was made to contact owners with a proposition, and those willing to participate were then offered the chance to lease the property to the trust for 20 years in return for it being made habitable and generating a rent by being occupied.

“For us,” said Mr Doherty, “it’s a family out of homelessness”.

Anti-social behaviour

The initiative also means empty, often eyesore properties that attract anti-social behaviour, are brought back to life in a way that benefits the wider community, he added.

Mr Doherty said he and the trust expected rural destitution to worsen over the coming two years as credit card debt and repossessions grew.

This would place an extra burden on cities, to which homeless people gravitated despite losing the close community support that was more readily available in rural areas in the process, he said.