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Fr McVerry calls for Homeless Act as numbers double

By Ann Marie Foley - 19 December, 2013

440_pmcverry_01New figures reveal that more than 90,000 households in Ireland are in need of social housing.

Many of these families are living with friends or relatives and others are in unsuitable arrangements such as bed and breakfast type accommodation. 

Just 473 homes owned by NAMA have been agreed for social housing since 2011, though the Government target was 4,000 NAMA units.

Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan has promised that 5,000 housing units will be released next year.

Earlier this week, Fr PeterMcVerry SJ called on the Government to introduce a Homelessness Act that would give homeless people a legal right to suitable accommodation.

“That right was granted to children in the Child Care Act of 1991 and now suitable accommodation is available for almost all homeless children”, he stated in the Irish Examiner newspaper.

“By contrast, the number of homeless adults, and the number forced to sleep on the streets, is rising rapidly.”

According to Fr McVerry and other homeless charities, the number of people sleeping on the streets has doubled since this time last year.

The Jesuit priest also called for the implementation of the Mid-term Review of the National Drugs Strategy (2001 – 2008) which recommended that by the end of 2007 suitable treatment should be given to problem drug-users no later than one month after assessment.

However, a half a dozen years on, some people are on waiting lists for 12 months or more, while others have no services at all in their area.

This weekend, the Jesuit Belvedere College will hold its annual sleepout in support of The Peter McVerry Trust, as well as Focus Ireland and Home Again.  

Eighty Belvedere students from Fifth and Sixth Year will live on O’Connell Street from 8am on Sunday 22 December until 8pm on Christmas Eve.

The students will spend their days collecting around the city centre and their nights sleeping on O’Connell Street.

Rían Hayes, one of the student organisers, has written about the Sleepout outlining how it all began.

Wednesday soup runs were being organised by students of the college, offering tea, coffee, biscuits and sandwiches to anyone living rough on the streets in Dublin.

“The most important thing the students offer is an ear though,” he wrote in the Irish Jesuit News.

440_sleepout_01“Day after day watching legs and feet bustle past, it’s easy to become convinced that nobody really cares about you; they don’t pay any attention to you, they wouldn’t miss you if you were gone.”

“That means something as simple as a few words from a stranger can be enough to assure a homeless person of their worth.”

The students on the soup run understood through the stories of the people they met how easy it is to fall into homelessness.

They also realised that funding was required by charities to help homeless people to get off and stay off the streets.

“And so came the inception of the first Sleepout, created by students of [Belvedere College] to raise money for these charities,” according to Rían Hayes.

“Thirty years later, the Sleepout is stronger than ever. It’s completely student-led, all work and materials contributed to it are entirely voluntary, and all money raised goes completely towards our three charities.”

He urged people doing Christmas shopping to contribute the change from a cup of coffee to their bucket.

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