By Ann Marie Foley - 08 November, 2017
Thousands of homeless children have become the norm and no longer shocks us. We have lost our sense of outrage,” - Fr Peter McVerry.
The Peter McVerry Trust worked with over 4,500 homeless people in 2016 and introduced an additional 140 beds to cope with the housing crisis. The charity has 210 properties and its operational budget for 2016 was over €17 million.
Yet the crisis continues according to founder Fr Peter McVerry, who stated he prematurely described the homeless situation in 2014 and then 2015 as the worst ever. “I have to begin our Annual Report for 2016 by saying that things have just gone from worse to worse. I dread to think what our Annual Report 2017 will have to say,” stated Fr Peter McVerry in his message in the report.
He stated that during 2016 the number of individuals using homeless emergency accommodation increased by 1000, to a total of 4643. The number of homeless families increased by 430 to a total of 1205 with 2505 children.
“We have lost our sense of outrage,” stated Fr McVerry. “In April 2016, the number of homeless children passed the 2000 mark – and it was barely mentioned in the media. Again in November 2016, the number of homeless children passed the 2500 mark – and it got a few lines on the inside pages of the newspapers. Thousands of homeless children have become the norm and it no longer shocks us. We have lost our sense of outrage,” he stated.
The Peter McVerry Trust (PMVT) CEO Pat Doyle, stated that in 2016 the charity had the “most difficult and challenging year in our 33 year history.” On behalf of the Trust he urged the Government to deliver a more effective and urgent response to the deepening homeless crisis. Not for the first time he urged the Government to switch funding to more effective responses to homelessness, such as Housing First, rather than continued reliance on emergency accommodation.
He said that the latter is more expensive and less effective than other models like Housing First which receives less than 1% of the national homeless budget each year in Ireland. In other countries up to 50% of the homeless services budget must be invested in the Housing First model. “Housing First has significantly higher success rates for housing people, and can be delivered at almost half the cost of traditional emergency accommodation,” he said.
“If we can get the Government to make the funding and policy shift, then the next thing we need is to get housing on stream to actually deliver a Housing First approach.” Housing First tackles homelessness by offering up-front housing at the same time as supports such as mental health or addiction treatment, for homeless people.
Pat Doyle said until Ireland sees “significant and sustained decreases” in the number of people entering homelessness, and in the numbers accessing homeless services, PMVT will continue to put pressure the Government do more to tackle the issue.
In 2016 alone PMVT increased bed capacity by 49%. In the ten years from 2006 to 2016 emergency accommodation increased by 2800%.
A total of €6.4 million was donated to PMVT during 2016. Individuals gave 43% of this, corporate donations were 18%, events 16%, legacies 12%, community 10% and the smallest was trusts at 1%.