By Ann Marie Foley - 29 November, 2018
The Peter McVerry Trust has been recognised as one of 100 digital pioneers in Europe for its app that enables members of the public to highlight suspected vacant buildings in Dublin.
The Financial Times, Google and leading European policymakers recognised the Irish homeless charity and included it in a special report from the Financial Times, titled ‘Europe’s Road to Growth’.
“The Reusing Dublin project enables us to identify new housing projects in Dublin that no one else is looking at. By targeting long-term vacant buildings we are securing more housing for social housing purposes in high demand and need areas,” said Francis Doherty, Head of Communications, the Peter McVerry Trust.
“This will hopefully result in less homelessness and fewer communities blighted by dereliction and vacancy, which are really positive social outcomes resulting from using digital technologies,” he added.
The Reusing Dublin Project uses an app that enables and encourages the public to log details of suspected vacant or derelict buildings across Dublin that can be investigated and potentially returned to use for social housing and a means of ending homelessness in the city. The project was developed with the support of Space Engagers, a Dublin-based social enterprise.
Francis Doherty of the Peter McVerry Trust said that the charity is “delighted to have been recognised” for its digital work and added: “At Peter McVerry Trust we believe that it is imperative that NGOs embrace digital opportunities to progress.”
The achievement was celebrated at an event at Google’s Digitaal Atelier in Brussels, where EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel congratulated all the winners, alongside Matt Brittin, President of Business & Operations for Google Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
In the last few years, the Peter McVerry Trust has returned 74 empty properties to use for homeless people and is in discussions with owners to turn a further 40 to 50 into social housing.
The Peter McVerry Trust has insufficient personnel to identify all the empty properties, so welcomes any information from members of the public who know what is happening in their own areas.
“It means we can cover the entire Dublin area without needing to hire more staff because people are using their local knowledge in the community. It is very helpful. People will give us information and say someone has passed away and the person who inherited has moved abroad and that is why it is empty,” Francis Doherty told catholicireland.net.
Depending on the information received, the Peter McVerry Trust finds out if the property is actually empty and who owns it and writes to them asking if they would be interested in bringing the property back into use for social housing by doing it up with state loans and renting or selling to the Trust. Over 600 property owners in Dublin have already been written to by the Trust to date, and many of those owners have several properties or apartments within one building.
Now the charity wants to expand the project out of Dublin and across Ireland and has appealed for members of the public in towns all over the country to report on suspected vacant properties. It is currently working on buildings in Kildare, and has visited Westmeath and Clare to see vacant properties.
“We would appeal to anybody that has an empty property, or knows of one, to contact us so we can see with the owner how to get back into use for social housing,” Francis Doherty told catholicireland.net. He added that the properties need to be in town or very close to a town.
Anyone with information or offers can telephone the Peter McVerry Trust or email [email protected].
For FT report see: https://www.ft.com/reports/europe-road-to-growth.