‘A Year On…The Situation Is Much, Much Worse’





From top: The doorway where homeless man Jonathan Corrie was found dead on Molesworth Street, Dublin last year;  Fr Peter McVerry


On this day last year, Jonathan Corrie was found dead outside a doorway on Molesworth Street, just metres from Dáil Éireann.

Today, on Jonathan’s anniversary, a protest will take place at 5pm outside Leinster House over the homeless situation in Dublin.

In light of this, campaigner for the homeless, Fr Peter McVerry spoke to Cathal MacCoille on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier.

During the interview Fr McVerry explained that the Dublin Homelessness Executive last night carried out their second yearly count of rough sleepers in Dublin – the same night 100 new homeless beds became available.

Fr McVerry also noted that 50 people, who sleep in the Merchant’s Quay night café, should no longer be excluded from the count.

From the interview…

Cathal MacCoille: Exactly one year ago, the body of Jonathan Corrie was found lying in a doorway near Leinster House. A series of Government initiatives followed but the problem of homelessness remains. The Dublin Homelessness Executive carried out one of their twice-yearly counts of people sleeping rough in the city last night. The result will be known in a few days… There was a series of initiatives, as we all remember by Government-sponsored, including over 200 beds made available for the homelessness, made within a month after Jonathan Corrie’s death. But, generally, one year on, how do we stand?”

Fr Peter McVerry: “Well the situation is much, much worse, one year on, than it was this time last year. There was 271 beds open, within four weeks, they were all full and the numbers on the streets were beginning to climb again. The numbers sleeping rough now are pretty much at the same level, if not higher, than they were this time last year. When Jonathan Corrie died there were, on average, about 40 families a month becoming homeless. At the moment, the average number of families becoming homeless is 73. So things have got much, much worse.”

MacCoille: “And yet I mean the pace of it and the need is still as great as ever, the pace of growth. But the Government would point to the action on not rent control but on rent certainty – a bar on rent increases for two years. The modular homes – prefab homes, whatever you want to call them, 22 to be available at the end of the year and more coming in the new year. So how would you compare what they’re doing with the need?”

McVerry: “Well, what they’re doing is welcome and it will make a difference in time but it is far, far too little. The rent certainty is only for a two-year period and the other options are really not significant. They will make a difference, like the deposits will be held by the Private Residential Tenancies Board rather than the landlord because the landlord, that’s a huge problem for tenants, trying to get their deposit back at the end of the tenancy. So there are a number of measures that will make a difference to tenants. But really, it’s going to make very, very little difference, given the scale of the problem. We need far, far more radical action than there’s being taken at the moment.”

MacCoille: “By that you mean…”

McVerry: “I think there are a whole lot of measures. I think we need to prevent the financial institutions evicting tenants when they repossess landlords’ homes and they’ve fallen into mortgage arrears. We need to expand the mortgage-to-rent scheme, to avoid families being thrown out of their homes when they’re repossessed. I think we need to bring in legislation, compulsorily purchasing empty homes, people who have property and it’s just lying empty and they’ve no plans to do anything with it. I think they should be compulsorily purchased. The voids, the empty local authority buildings that exist, and there’s a huge number of them around the country, they ought to be brought back into operation as rapidly as possible and I can’t understand why they’re not being renovated and used again, as quickly as possible. There’s a whole lot of measures that really need to be taken and they need to be taken all together to try and alleviate the crisis that we have. There will be 100 new beds opening, actually I think they opened last night, 100 new beds, to get people off the street and that will be very welcome but it won’t get everybody off the streets and the numbers sleeping on the street are far higher than 100 and we have to include 50 people who go every night to the Merchant’s Quay night café. That’s a night café – they can spend the night there, they can sleep on mats on the floor. They are excluded from the rough sleepers’ count but they really should be included because they don’t have a bed for the night. And, indeed, if 50 people sleeping on a floor in a large room is a scene we associate with The Philippines after a hurricane, rather than Ireland in the 21st century.”

MacCoille: “…There are people who don’t want to be in any kind of sheltered accommodation at all, who feel safer out on the streets. Now is that because the right kind of accommodation is not available?”

McVerry: “Absolutely. Most of the emergency accommodation that is available is of an appalling quality. It is dormitory style, you’re sharing a room with maybe three or four or five or more other people, you don’t know who you’re sharing with, you can have people who are drug-free sharing a room with three or four people who, in the middle of the night, will be injecting heroin. Who will be offering you drugs, who may even be pressuring you to buy drugs from them. People are often attacked in those dormitory-style rooms; they feel very vulnerable, intimidated and, certainly, some categories of people, particularly, the younger people and more vulnerable people, just feel terrified in those dormitory-style accommodations. And they prefer to sleep on the street than go into those… and I can understand that. The least we can do, and it’s only a question of money, it’s not a big deal, the least we could do is give everyone their own space; to give them a place they can go into at night, lock the door, and feel safe, know they’re not going to be attacked during the night and know that their belongings are still going to be beside the bed in the morning, when they wake up. That’s the least we could do for homeless people at night time.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: Nice Crib, Brú

A Bed Is Not Just For Christmas




This afternoon.

Jonathan Corrie’s former partner Catherine McNeill (left) and daughter Natasha bring flowers to the doorstep at Molesworth Street.

(Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie)

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55 thoughts on “‘A Year On…The Situation Is Much, Much Worse’

  1. AlisonT

    Fr McVerry is a good man but clearly his approach does not work – just making it easier to be homeless is not going to solve the problem. His call for rent freezes is reducing the number of rental properties available but at least it puts all the blame for homelessness on the landlords and none on anyone else.
    A lot of his policies have been implemented in the last 12 months and he admits the problem is worse. Time to try something different.

    1. ahjayzis

      I don’t understand that point about landlords shutting up shop.

      How does a frozen rent level make it more profitable for the landlord to withdraw the property from the rental market and keep it empty? Why choose no income as opposed to a frozen or capped income?

      If they sell it, it remains in the housing stock and someone gets housed, freeing up their old property… especially of McVerry’s suggestion of punishing/CPO-ing vacant properties is done in tandem.

      Really, why would a landlord just keep it empty and thus take it out of circulation and make zero money out of it instead of some, fixed amount of money?

      1. scottser

        Theres a big difference in liability for the one-off or accintal landlord who gets taxed to shit, and the landlord who may own several prpoerties but can write off most liabilities as overheads. If you have a spare proprty, sell it to a voluntary housing agency who can provide tenancy support.

      1. AlisonT

        In what sense – there is no evidence that freezing rents will help tackle homelessness. People talk about rising rents and evictions like the property is being left empty where as it is usually being rented to some other homeless family. They is why they are trying to rent.
        Rent freezes and political interference increases risk in the market and makes people less likely to invest in new and second hand housing stock. This reluctance to invest in new housing stock in turn decreases the supply of suitable rental properties which pushes up rent. It is in the first chapter of most economics books.

        1. Anne

          “Rent freezes and political interference increases risk in the market and makes people less likely to invest in new and second hand housing stock.”


          Where’s the evidence for that?
          David McWilliams address this point on Claire Byrne there not too long ago –

          “Rents are going up by 35% over a 3 or 4 year period and no houses are being built. So if the government was right and rent control leads to less houses being built because no investors will come in, which is their logic, how can they explain that no rent control and rents going up by 35% hasn’t lead to an increase in supply, but a decrease of supply..”

    2. Anne

      “His call for rent freezes is reducing the number of rental properties available”..
      If that were the case, as ahjayzis points out, where would the houses go?

      Personally, I’m all for forcing landlords out of business.

        1. ahjayzis

          You know they don’t demolish the house and plant apple trees when they’re getting out of the game, right?

      1. ollie

        1,000 rental properties a month are being sold to new owners who are not letting them,. That is a fact.

        As for this comment “Personally, I’m all for forcing landlords out of business.” In you opinion does this apply to local authorities and housing charities? Should everyone have to buy a property to live in? What about students, people here on short term work assignments?
        Next time, think before you post.

        1. Anne

          ” In you opinion does this apply to local authorities and housing charities? Should everyone have to buy a property to live in?”

          No, they shouldn’t have to buy a property if they don’t want to. I said I think most people renting would like a home. Most isn’t everyone.
          Students need temporary accommodation, as you point out.
          But like renters who have families, they’re being gouged.
          I don’t think local authorities and housing charities are gougers.

          My personal opinion is (and I don’t need you to tell me how to think) is that I think the business of being a landlord, of profiteering off the backs of families needing a place to live, should be discouraged through policies that make it less profitable, but we won’t have that with most of our politicians being landlords.

          1. Neilo

            Being a landlord is quite often a matter of barely breaking even, let alone profiteering. I don’t even know why anyone bothers with being a landlord as it looks to me like a pain in the posterior. If the incentive to earn a mild surplus through buying and letting property is removed by government fiat, then the burden to provide accommodation may well fall to the state. Wouldn’t be too thrilled about that.

          2. AlisonT

            Anne, you clearly know nothing about economics – you want a supply of a product but don’t want anyone to be paid for supplying the product. Try reading a book, they hide all sorts of information in them that can improve your grasp of reality.

          3. Anne

            Here’s some more for you on the economics involved in housing –

            “How many times do we have to screw up to realise that economics is not a science?…

            The reality is that the cost of this crisis is being borne not by banks, landlords or developers but by renters and first time buyers..

            There seems to be a lot of ideology involved in this debate. The mainstream economics profession and the property/landlord lobby appear to argue that we shouldn’t introduce rent controls because it interferes with the “free market” or the status quo. But this is silly because the market isn’t free; it is rigged at every stage and the “status quo” doesn’t deliver stability but delivers massive instability.

            If we really want a free market in housing, we should scrap all tax breaks to property, stop allowing debt interest costs to be deducted from tax liabilities, stop any tax incentive into any form of building, introduce “use it or lose it” schemes in planning, introduce “non-recourse” mortgages and address a whole variety of other legacy interventions in this most tampered with market.

            Until these are done, signaling out rent control as being uniquely distortive smacks of ideology, group think and a weakness for thinking economics is a pure science when in fact is it far from that. Groupthink and the tyranny of conventional wisdom are very dangerous – we of all peoples should be aware of that!”


            Happy reading ya wagon.

      1. dav

        I’m sure she wants to concentrate all the homeless into camps, since it’s their own fault that they’re homeless and that they didn’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

        1. realPolithicks

          I think Alison is one of those people who carps from the sidelines but doesn’t actually contribute anything useful.

      2. AlisonT

        My solution is better public transport to make it easier for people to travel to their work for further out of town, build more high rise so we can have a density of accommodation to suit a large city. Better support for those who want to get off drugs and safe short term accommodation for those who are clean. Landlords should be paid rent allowance directly and at a level that reflects the cost of providing accommodation. Protection for landlords when tenants decide to stop paying rent for a year or so. Better support service for people in state care when they reach 18. Better back to work schemes and a reduction in allowances for those ho do not participate. An end to the entitlement culture. Respect for people who have houses, family support and money but want to live on the street.

        1. Anne

          “Respect for people who have houses, family support and money but want to live on the street.”

          That’s a cool idea, that. Aretha Franklin style.. R.E.S.P.E.C.T

          1. d4n

            Any time you see the phrase ‘end entitlement culture’ you may as well give up om trying to convince that person.

  2. DubLoony

    At the risk of whatever on BS, Mr. Corrie had 2 houses bought for him by his family, he had their love & support.
    He sold them and chose to live on the streets.
    No-one should die on the streets but clearly his problems were more complex than merely not just having a roof over his head.

    1. ahjayzis

      That’s a point alright, but Mr.Corries situation wasn’t typical of the hundreds of new homeless out there now. It’s a tangential issue – long term homeless with serious personal problems and the (probably vast majority) of homeless in that situation by economic factors are really two separate problems.

      1. Yea, Ok

        Absolutely. I’ve said that here before; families being made homeless because of job losses/rent increases etc. are a completely different issue to addicts and people with mental problems sleeping on the streets. Shoehorning them into one box is disingenuous and weakens the cause of homeless campaigners.
        If rent was lowered and jobs provided for everyone who wants one, the issue of homeless families would disappear tomorrow.
        If a house was handed to all the Jonathan Corrie types tomorrow no questions asked, I’d hazard a guess that for a lot of those people their problems would only get worse in terms of drug abuse etc. Those people need help and treatment, providing more beds is treating the symptoms not the cause.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          “Shoehorning them into one box is disingenuous and weakens the cause of homeless campaigners.”

          I disagree. Homeless campaigners are often the only ones talking about these issues, they are there to sweep up the pieces after all. Surely it reflects the fact that homelessness is so hugely complex issue, it’s not drug and drink problems that get people there, sometimes people are there and then turn to drink and drugs.

          1. Yea, Ok

            Whether addiction is a cause or consequence of homelessness is sort of beside the point though, because either way the solution to someone in that position’s homelessness and that of, say, a single mother whose rent has gone up or who lost her job are very different. Obviously the homeless campaigners’ hearts are in the right place but I don’t think trying to solve two separate issues with one campaign is necessarily the right approach.

          2. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Not if the solution is getting them a house. I don’t know that much about homelessness, I know there are people on here who do, maybe they’ll turn up and clarify but for some people, providing that stability and routine is a huge help in recovery. They may be different circumstances but there is going to be a lot of overlap between them in terms of what helps.

            I don’t think it weakens any campaign, though it makes it more complicated.

          3. Rob_G

            ‘Not if the solution is getting them a house.’

            – therein lies the rub; Jonathon Corrie had a house – two houses, in fact.

            The problems of people who are homeless due to from addiction and/or mental health problems won’t be solved by the provision of more houses (though it would go a long way to alleviating the problems of families being made homeless due to rising rents).

          4. Dόn Pídgéόní

            It doesn’t. I think everyone agrees he was a special case.

            I’m not saying it will solve them outright, but giving someone stability is going to go a long long way to helping them stop using. Lots of homeless people start BECAUSE they are homeless, it’s cold and scary out there, so prevention helps too.

            Though what you are really implying there is that situation B is more deserving of a home than situation A. Which I can’t get on board with.

        2. george

          In Utah they reduced homelessness by 72% by giving apartments to homeless people so they could back on their feet. It is cost effective compared with providing services and has helped many long term homeless people turn their lives around.

          There are just 300 homeless people in the state of Utah with a population of 2.9million. Focus Ireland’s website estimates that there are 5000 homeless people in Ireland with recent increases this is likely to be higher.

    2. Dόn Pídgéόní

      Possibly. But as is said, the anniversary is being used as a platform to talk about the fact that there are more homeless people and families and a grater strain on capacity of services ie something needs to be done to meet that and improve the current services which are not suitable and can encourage drug and alcohol use.

      1. DubLoony

        And that is fair enough.
        Bottom line is that we need more dwellings of all types – social housing, family homes, accommodation for singles (about half the waiting list), sheltered housing for vulnerable people, private housing so people can move out of rental places to free those up.

        2 Billion was allocated to social housing last year. The time to acquire sites, obtain planning permission, contacts etc would be a minimum of 18 months – 2 years before shovels go in the ground. Until building swings into hire gear again, we’re going to face this crunch of too few dwellings for a growing population.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          There must be a faster way to do things. It would interesting to see what developing countries do in terms of accessing housing during say natural disasters and seeing if anything can be learned from that to build houses now that maybe aren’t going to be there permanently but give people somewhere to live.

          These are a great example http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-spent-the-night-in-brightons-homeless-shipping-container-housing-project

          Obviously there are flaws because people don’t take them seriously or treat them as too temporary, there has to be a middle ground. Or am I just being too optimistic?

          1. DubLoony

            That’s what the modular home row is about.
            Something fast needs to be done while ramping up but the row about location, cost and types of modular homes seem to miss the point that this is a crisis.

    3. Nigel

      Clearly the problem, the big problem, the insurmountable problem, the problem we need to address and keep coming back to, the problem that has only worsened one year on and which government indifference and popular intransigence is excacerbating daily, is the degree to which the particular person who died homeless near the Dail fails to comply with our notions of what homelessness should be, and his unsuitability as a candidate as a rallying cry for the spectre of homelessness which should ideally be,, basically, The Little Match Girl. Once we find a dead Little Match Girl near the Dail, then and only then we can properly get on t the secondary, less important problem, of actual homelessness.

    4. Spaghetti Hoop

      Mr. Corrie was a wealthy man with strong family support. It is unfortunate that addiction afflicted him but he is NOT an ideal representative for the homeless in Dublin.

      A neighbour of mine similarly died in much the same circumstances; good home, good family, well-educated, plenty of cash, discovered heroin, lasted only days on the streets and died in a phone box. Again, NOT a representative of the homeless.

      I was at one of he Festival of History conferences and when the social context of today was referenced, AGAIN Jonathan Corrie was wheeled out as a poster boy and example of a society destitute and homeless. Tabloidism seems to have won here and it has managed to fool even the sharpest of minds. People need to know the difference between homelessness and addiction, know where they intertwine and look at the short-term and long-term dwellers of the streets and why they are there. Instead of plaques on walls.

      1. Nigel

        You mean representative of the wrong kind of homelessness, the difficult, complex, personally heartbreaking, publicly problematic, ongoing kind of homelessness, not the morally audited and pure kind of homelessness demanded by our quasi-Victorian sense of sentimentality and brutal judgmentaliem. If that’s a word.

      2. MoyestWithExcitement

        Whatever about Corrie, this has the nation talking about the problem of homelessness. That’s a good thing. Aren’t you one of those anti refugee types? Surely you should be happy there’s a national conversation about this.

        1. Spaghetti Hoop

          I am happy there is a conversation and a proposal for action; but I have seen policies in the past and it’s as if addiction is the elephant in the room.
          What’s an anti-refugee type? If you mean a person opposed to an open-door policy for migrants, yes I’m one of those, but that’s a separate issue and of no relevance here.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Addiction is a different problem to homeless. Sure, they can be intertwined but they are different problems with different solutions.

            An anti refugee type would, for instance, register public discomfort with stories painting refugees as human beings, as you have, several times. It’s just that those people often bring up ‘Whatabout the homeless’ when talking about refugees, hence why I mentioned it.

  3. Lordblessusandsaveus

    I’d rather give my money to a charity for people than a very suspiciously flashy slick charity for good looking abandoned dogs.

  4. ollie

    Interesting to see Mr McVerry, who’s spent the last number of years blaming landlords for homelessness now accepting that’s there more to the problem.

    1. Kieran NYC

      Wasn’t thrilled with him cheerleading Bertie’s ‘road to Damascus’ “socialism” nonsense back in the day either. He was all over those ‘think-ins’ like a rash. He seems to have swung the other way now, portraying himself as the only person rolling the boulder up the hill.

      Still. Fair play to his effort through the years.

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