Tag Archives: Fr Peter McVerry


From top: Fr Peter McVerry; Eamonn Kelly

Eamonn Kelly writes:

In today’s Irish Times Fr Peter McVerry takes the Taoiseach to task for implying that homelessness does not exist, that what we call homelessness is really only a kind of aspiration for better homes. That those who complain of homelessness are really saying that they’d like nicer places to live.

Here’s the quote from the Taoiseach that Peter McVerry angrily takes issue with:

“There are 90,000 people on the housing list but very many, if not most, have houses and apartments. However, these are houses and apartments that are being provided to them through rent supplement or the private rental sector and they want different houses or apartments that are more appropriate to their needs.

It is important to recall that, of those 90,000 on the housing list, the majority are in houses or apartments, just not the permanent homes they would like to have and which we would like them to have.” [Leader’s Questions, July 12, 2017]

So, according to the Taoiseach, the homeless have houses and apartments, but they are simply being fussy and want better ones.

And since he is the Taoiseach, and leader of the free world as we understand it here in this soggy corner of Europe, the Homeless Crisis has now been officially downgraded to the much more manageable Fussiness Crisis.

A crisis where taste is not, unfortunately, being matched by reality. Something a good bucket of paint and a joss-stick might solve. A problem that a simple shift in mental attitude might dispel.

Fr Peter McVerry’s article produces enough hard evidence and figures to show, just in case anyone was in any doubt, that we really do have a homeless crisis and not just a “Fussiness Crisis” as the Taoiseach appears to be suggesting.

The article includes a graphic incorporating figures from the central statistics office that clearly show there are 6,906 homeless people in Ireland, 73% of them in Dublin. According to the Taoiseach, and this now exists in the Dail records, “very many of these, if not most, have houses and apartments.

Where I come from, this is called a bare-faced lie. But I come from a relatively humble working-class background and I’m maybe not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a bare-faced lie and some complex housing/social policy thingy that someone like me might not be fully capable of grasping.

The Taoiseach’s suggestion that there is no homelessness also implies that rough-sleepers and kids living on fast food and crisps in hotel accommodations, as reported in the Irish Times yesterday, are only figments of the collective imagination, like some kind of mass delusionary experience.

The idea also appears to suggest that the work Fr Peter McVerry and people of his ilk have been doing all these years, against increasingly ambivalent odds, is also delusional in its assessment of the problems they are addressing every working day of their lives, and the political policies that appear to be creating these problems.

There was an old joke in working class Dublin to describe tough neighbourhoods. You’d say “They ate their young in that place!” This came to mind when I noticed yesterday’s census reports that 1 in 4 homeless people are under the age of 18, and that the largest homeless age group was children under 4 years of age.

People may soon be saying of Ireland. “Sure, they ate their young in that place.”

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.

Rollingnews

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To mark World Homeless Day.

An evening with homelessness activist Peter McVerry’ including a screening of the documentary Peter McVerry: A View From The Basement and a chat with Fintan O’Toole at the Light House Cinema starting at 6.30pm.

Peter McVerry Trust

Alternatively:

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Peter McVerry at the launch of the Action Plan on Homelessness last month

….Fr Peter McVerry wants to get back to the 80s, where we were building up to 8,000 “social houses” every year. Why? Does he see home ownership as a bad thing? Why else would he be so in favour of inflating the “social housing” market – property that would forever remain in the state’s hands?

The British Left never forgave Thatcher for “right to buy,” which allowed the low income to buy their council houses. Private property being the original sin of the Left, this broke the chains that bound many of Britain’s poorer with the powerful state. US broadcaster Dennis Prager says “the bigger the state, the smaller the citizen,” and that’s what gets Leftists votes.

We entirely sympathise with people on short-term leases, who can see a hike in their rent down the road. But what do you expect with such an appallingly regulated sector? Landlords are only in that favourable position due to that tired but true term: supply-and-demand.

If the stock of housing were to keep up with demand, no landlord could afford to lose good, reliable tenants; longer-term leases, with rent freezes, would be a competitive advantage as landlords sought the best tenants. (And, given that we rate tradesmen, teachers and restaurants online, why not throw in a website that rates tenants?)

The market rate is, after all, contingent on what the state will allow it to be, reflective of land zoning, planning permission, and a plethora of costly regulations.

Alas, I dare say, many of McVerry’s supporters would be the same type of people who would turn their noses up at a block of apartments being built in their neighbourhood.

Of course McVerry is correct on many points; relative to wages, housing is stupidly expensive in Ireland. But the solutions are not so forthcoming.

Releasing state-controlled land; building taller buildings to make better use of acreage and afford us the density of population required to make quality public transport possible; tackling the cost of grossly inflated agricultural land – all of these solutions are actively fought by progressives.

You can’t have a competitive property market and an 19th Century idyll at the same time, folks.

We need sustainable solutions here. We need tough, open discussions. We need accurate figures. McVerry’s is not the only voice in this debate.

Fr Peter McVerry’s voice is not the only one in this homelessness debate (John Lalor, The Hibernia Forum)

Rollingnews

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Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry spoke with Cathal MacCoille on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland earlier suggesting a rent freeze in the private rental sector to help curb the homeless crisis.

Finally.

Fr McVerry also informed listeners that he has never spoken with Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Cathal MacCoille: “You’ve been working with homeless people for over 30 years now – how do you characterise the current state of homelessness?”

Fr Peter McVerry: “It’s been in crisis for at least the last two years and now it’s beyond crisis. The numbers are just going up and up. For example, in January this year there were 410 families in emergency accommodation. In July, there were 659 families in emergency accommodation. The numbers are just going up and up and up. And I would describe the situation, it’s like a boat that’s drifting, it’s drifting towards the rocks and there doesn’t seem to be any engine that’s trying to drift it away from the rocks and there doesn’t seem to be anybody in charge. The problem is just getting worse and I see no measures being taken to try and address that problem in the short term.”

MacCoille: “I’ll talk about the measures you’re suggesting in a moment but, in your view, why is it so bad now?”

McVerry: “It’s so bad now. The primary cause now of homelessness, of 90% of the new people becoming homeless is the private, rental sector. Their rents have gone through the roof. People can no longer afford them. We deal with, we’re dealing with one young man, he’s been renting for the last two years. His rent was €950. The landlord came along and said next month it’s €1,300. He went to the Department of Social Protection, asked for an increase in rent allowance and was refused. He will now, this month, become homeless. And the second cause of it is homes being repossessed by the banks – particularly buy-to-lets. When a bank takes over a buy-to-let, a tenant who rents that house gets turfed out. So I think that’s the primary cause and that has to be addressed. There are two problems in this, there is first of all the problem and it’s an enormous problem, of helping those who are currently homeless finding accommodation but the second problem, I think even more urgent is trying to prevent more and more people and more and more families floating into homelessness. We’ve got to take measures to prevent that.”

MacCoille: “And this is why you’re calling on the department of the environment to freeze rents, to stop the number… rather than help those who are homeless but to stop more people from becoming homeless, yeah?”

McVerry: “It’s one particular measure, it’s already too late for so many families to freeze rents and anyway it’ll have to pass through legislation and that’s going to take time. It’s one measure. I think there are other measures. We have to increase the rent supplement, there’s no question about it. The rents, nationwide, in the last three and a half years, have gone up by an average of €50 per week. In Dublin they’ve gone up by over €90 per week on average and the rent supplement has been reduced by 28% – there is just no correlation now between the rent supplement and the rents that are being demanded by the landlord.”

MacCoille: “How likely do you think it will be that rents will be freezed or rent supplement will be increased?”

McVerry: “Well there’s a number of TDs who are landlords and I don’t think they’re going to vote for it.

MacCoille: “Have you asked the department?”

McVerry: “We have an emergency…”

MacCoille: “Have you asked the department, Peter?”

McVerry: “We’ve been calling for it, and so has Threshold, and so has Focus Ireland, and so has the Simon Community. We have been calling for rent freezes for ages. In November of last year the minister [Alan Kelly] said he was considering an emergency rent freeze. In February, he said he was going to do it – he actually said he was going to introduce emergency rent freeze. We’ve heard nothing since. That does not suggest to me like any sense of urgency in addressing what is a critical problem. You know the way the number of families are going, by the time the election comes around, in maybe six or seven months time, you’re gonna have 1,000 families who are actually homeless – there are not 1,000 hotel bedrooms available for 1,000 families, many of them are going to find themselves unable to access accommodation, it’s going to be in mid-winter and there’s an election coming up.”

MacCoille: “Have you spoken to Alan Kelly recently?”

McVerry: “I have never spoken to Alan Kelly.”

MacCoille: “Have you looked to speak to him?”

McVerry: “No, he hasn’t looked to speak to me.”

MacCoille: “No but would you not look to speak to him, you’re coming forward with what many group would agree are good ideas, would you not speak to him about them?”

McVerry: “Well Alan Kelly is well aware of my views, I have written about it extensively, I’ve written about it in the Irish Times, I’ve written about it in our own working notes. I think Alan Kelly is well aware of our position on the issue of homelessness.”

MacCoille: “Would you be willing to speak to him?”

McVerry: “Absolutely, I’ll speak to anyone.”

Morning Ireland

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0008f1e5-440[Miriam O’Callaghan and Fr Peter McVerry]

Homelessness activist Fr Peter McVerry appeared on ‘Sunday with Miriam’ [O’Callaghan yesterday on RTE Radio 1.

He warned of a situation in Dublin that has gone “beyond crisis”.

Miriam O’Callaghan: “I wanted to talk to you because the situation right now – in terms of homelessness, is at crisis-level, you feel – isn’t it?

Fr Peter McVerry: “In all the years I’ve been working with homeless people, it has never been so bad. We are even, I would say, beyond crisis at this stage. There are six new people ecoming homeless every day – and that’s the official figures, it may be more than that. The difficulty is that there is no exit out of homelessness any longer. The two traditional exits out of homelessness were, 1) in, to social housing, but there is a dearth of social housing. The building of social housing dropped dramatically during the Celtic Tiger years, and has never been recommenced. The other exit is, into the private rented sector, but certainly in the cities and particlarly in Dublin, again that’s out of reach now for homeless people, because the rents are escalating, they’re going through the roof. Demand for rented accommodation far outweighs the supply. Not only can’t homeless people get into rented accommodation, but people already in rented accommodation are losing it, because the landlords are coming along and saying, ‘The rent next month is going up by two or three hundred euros – if you’re on social welfare, that’s 50 euros a week, you can’t afford to pay that. Rent supplement isn’t going to increase to allow you to pay that. So, people in rented accommodation are losing their accommodation, and becoming homeless.”

O’Callaghan: “Do you ever therefore, despair, that it’s 40 years since you started out becoming a champion for the homeless – and 40 years on, you’re telling me that it’s worse than you’ve ever known it?”

McVerry:
“Well, it’s frustrating, I don’t despair because you have to keep going, and often, the little you can do for the homeless people, means so much to them. But, it’s very, very frustrating. I now am in the situation – probably for the first time – lots and lots of homeless people are coming to me and saying, ‘Look, I’ve nowhere to sleep, I was left out to sleep on the streets for the past three nights ’cause there was no beds, can you do anything for me?’ And I’m saying, look, I’m sorry, I can’t do anything for you – there are no beds! And you know, a lot of these… the typical image we have of homeless people are drug users or alcoholics, or people with mental health problems.
The new homeless people are ordinary people like the rest of us. For example, we had two young people 19 and 21 who had left home because of their father’s violence – neither of them drank, neither of them used drugs, neither of them smoked – both had their Leaving Certificates. They went to get accommodation, they were told that there were no beds left, here’s a sleeping bag – and they were sleeping in a railway station. Now, we rescued them and managed to squeeze them somewhere into our accommodation.
But that’s the new profile of new homeless people, ordinary people who just have no accommodation available and can’t access accommodation because they don’t have the money to access. The other typical homeless group now, are families. Again, I had a phone-call, half ten at night, a couple of weeks ago, a mother was saying,’Look, I’m sitting here on a park bench with my three chidren, and I’m told there’s no accommodation available for me’.
It has never been like that before, in all the years that I have been working – it has never, never been so bad. And why we now have a crisis of homelessness, I believe, there’s a tsunami of homelessness coming down the road. There are expected, up to 35,000 home repossessions over the next few years. That means the banks are taking over the houses and 35,000 are going to be out on the street, looking for accommodatiion.
There are also 40,000 buy-to-let mortgages in arrears – the banks are going to repossess a number of those, or at least quite a percentage of those, and the tenants are going to be turfed out, because the banks don’t want to become landlords – they just want empty possession, so they can sell the houses and get some of their money back.
And the tragedy is there’s no exit out of it, there’s a dam at the end of the river and this torrent of water is coming down, and there’s no way out! It’s really… I think it’s quite frightening, and ultimately, I think, because of the changed nature of homelessness, these are ordinary people who would vote, and their friends would vote, I think this whole issue of housing and homelessness could bring this government down.”

Listen in full here

(Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)

(RTE)

Homeless
“The problem of homelessness is out of control; it is getting worse every week and no one appears to be doing anything about it. The problem is most acute in Dublin where official figures show that six additional people are becoming homeless in the region every day, while only two each day succeed in escaping homelessness. More and more people who seek a bed for the night are told those beds are full. Just to keep pace with the problem would require opening a new hostel every week with 28 beds.”

“There has been a 90 per cent drop in social housing output between 2007 and 2011, resulting in a 100 per cent increase in the social housing waiting list, from 43,700 in 2005 to 89,900 in 2013. The Government has allocated funding to build 449 new homes over the next two years – which will reduce the waiting list by 2 per cent!”

Fr Peter McVerry, founder of Peter McVerry Trust, in today’s Irish Times.

Authorities close door on crisis of homelessness (Fr Peter McVerry, Irish Times)

Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

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Veteran homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry appeared on the Late Late Show on Friday with Peter Coonan, of Love/Hate, and photographer  Perry Ogden to promote the Blue Hat campaign and discuss the homelessness crisis in Ireland.

Peter McVerry: “The problem, homelessness is out of control – there’s a flood of people becoming homeless. Official figures are that there are six new people becoming homeless in the Dublin area every day. So there is a flood – there is no real plan to deal with that. There are six people becoming homeless every day, there are two people exiting homelessness every day – but that leaves a net four. We need to open a new hostel every week with twenty beds – just to stand still.”

Ryan Turbridy: “Where are they {the homeless} coming from?”

McVerry;: “Coming from? – they’re coming from, sometimes broken relationships, if anybody sharing accommodation with a partner, or with friends, and that relationship breaks down, and you don’t have any money – you become homeless. Other people may be losing their accommodation in the private rental sector because as the rents are going up – they simply become unable to afford the rents – sometimes for a variety of reasons – but there is that flood of homelessness and there is no plan to deal with it.”

Tubridy: “You’ve been doing this, you’ve been involved with the homeless charity for thirty years, or thereabouts – how bad is it now, 2013/2014, compared to recent time?”

McVerry: “It is the worst now, than I have ever known.”

Tubridy: “Ever?”

McVerry: “Ever, in thirty five years. It’s much much worse now – and the frustration level of homeless people is rising, it’s becoming impossible now for a homeless person to get out of homelessness – the normal exit out of homelessness was into the private sector – that’s become almost impossible, by a shortage of private rented accommodation and almost all landlords now are taking cash-only. They are not prepared to take somebody who is dependent on a government rent supplement for their accommodation. If you go onto a web-site like Daft.ie where flats and apartments are advertised, you might find a hundred apartments, maybe one of them will take a rent supplement – and usually that one will be of such poor quality that the only reason that they’re taking rent suplement is that nobody else would take it – but if you’re homeless, you’ll take anything.”

Tubridy: “How did it get so bad?”

McVerry: “It got so bad because the government now, for a long time, right through the Celtic Tiger years… we reduced the social housing build that up to the Celtic Tiger was one third of what was being built was for social housing. Even during the Celtic Tiger years that reduced to 6% in some years, and now it’s reduced to zero – there’s very little social housing. Government policy now is to eliminate homelessness by 2016 – how are they going to do it? – through the private rental sector – it’s a joke – it simply cannot happen.”

Tubridy: “Okay, well people often say, ‘Well why not use those ghost estates, or the NAMA re-possession places to offer as alternative accommodation for homeless people?’. What would you say?”

McVerry: “NAMA could make a contribution – a small contribution – but many of the ghost estates are not suitable accommodation for homeless people, many are on the outskirts of towns – there’s no public transport, there’s no schools, no shops…”

Tubridy: “That’s why they’re ghost estates, nobody wants to live there?”

McVerry: “Well, that’s why they’re unsuitable for homeless people – that is why there is no solution to homelessness unless the Government starts to invest in social housing.”

Tubridy: “And do you think that that’s going to happen?”

McVerry: “Oh, not a chance, the Government’s plan for social housing is that they’re going to build five hundred social housing units over the next three years.”

Tubridy: “And what needs to happen, in your eyes?”

McVerry: “We need to invest heavily – you know, we have Newland’s Cross traffic lights – I don’t know if anybody drives there, but they’re removing the lights there at Newlands Cross, so that you can drive from Belfast to Limerick without stopping. The cost of removing those traffic lights and replacing them with a free-flow junction is in the region of €100 million. That would buy 1,000 apartments at current prices and there are, in the Dublin area 1,200 approximately, household units – you could almost eliminate homelessness with the money that’s being spent on those…..{Newlands Cross lights}”

Tubridy: “…When you put it like that, that starkly and that simply, and I presume you talk to Government all the time about these things – what do they say, when you say, ‘Look it’s this simple.’?”

McVerry: “They don’t! I don’t talk to them, because they don’t ask me. I think, ultimately it comes down to attitudes – our attitudes to homeless people, I think – that homeless people are impossible to help, homeless people have huge problems – there’s no point in trying to give them accommodation. I think that that attitude prevails, even though it’s not true. Many, many homeless people have no more problems than anybody else. There are homeless people in third level education, there are homeless people becoming electricians, carpenters and bricklayers. The image of homeless people is a very negative image because most homeless people are invisible – the only homeless people you know are homeless are people who are problematic – using drugs in the city centre, people with mental health problems and that creates the image of homeless people.”

Watch here (starts @1.08)

Previously: The Highest Number Ever Recorded

Peter McVerry Trust

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Love/Hate stars Laurence Kinlan (Elmo) and Peter Coonan (Fran) hope yule have a blue blue Christmas by buying a Coola Boola Santa hat in aid of SARI (Sport Against Racism Ireland) and the Peter McVerry Trust.

The hats, which cost €4 each, will be available from tomorrow, Friday 6th December, in all Tesco stores, Golden Discs and Easons nationwide.

Peter Coonan (Fran the Man) will make personal appearances this Saturday, 7th December in Golden Discs Blanchardstown (from 11 – 12 noon) and Easons in Dundrum Town Centre (from 2:30 – 3:30).

Love/Hat y’all.

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Fr Peter McVerry,- who has worked with the homeless and drug users for most of his life said he would like to see drugs “across the board” legalised. The difference between legalisation and decriminalisation is that in the case of the latter a person found in possession of drugs for personal use would not be given a criminal conviction. Legalisation however would mean the buying, importing and selling of drugs would be legal and regulated by the State.

Peter McVerry in favour of legalising all drugs (Colin Gleeson, Irish Times)

Meanwhile…



Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

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903055549030556090305556There was tay.

Staff and homeless people that receive support from the the Peter McVerry Trust met with President Higgins yesterday afternoon to mark the 30th anniversary of the charity.

From top: President Higgins with Bridget Boyne, Paul Cashel, James Power, Fr Peter McVerry, Martin O’Connor and Fr McVerry.

Fr McVerry Trust

(Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)