'It's like running up an escalator going in the opposite direction' - Fr Peter McVerry

The homeless charity is to open more emergency beds in the run up to Christmas

'It's like running up an escalator going in the opposite direction' - Fr Peter McVerry

Fr Peter McVerry is pictured in January 2017 | Image: RollingNews.ie

Homeless charity the Peter McVerry Trust is urging the Government to deliver a more effective and urgent response to the homeless crisis.

The charity is launching its annual report on Monday.

It says the Government should switch its funding to more effective forms of responding to homelessness - such as Housing First - rather than continue to rely more and more emergency accommodation.

Fr Peter McVerry told Newstalk Breakfast says emergency beds are not the solution to the problem.

"It reveals a crisis that we're trying to respond to, but we're only a tiny little player in the ocean.

"We opened an extra 142 emergency beds last year, we'll be opening more emergency beds coming up to Christmas now.

"We're also running a number of hubs for homeless families - but that's all actually an admission of failure.

"Opening emergency beds is not a solution to homelessness, it's a solution to rough sleeping.

"It gets people off the streets and therefore it makes homelessness less visible, and therefore it takes some of the pressure off Government.

"But emergency beds does not solve (the problem) - a person is still homeless when they're in an emergency bed".

"The solution to homelessness is to provide people with a home, and that's what's so frustrating.

"It feels like you're running up an escalator which is going in the opposite direction".

Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said: "We've been responding to a deepening crisis for the past five years and each year, as the number of people in homelessness has grown higher, it has become much more difficult to respond as resources are stretched ever further.

"We have said to Government all along that the solution has to be a housing led one, yet we find ourselves constantly being asked to deliver greater levels of emergency accommodation.

"In the past 10 years Peter McVerry Trust's bed capacity has seen a twenty-eightfold increase, and this winter we have been asked, and have committed, to put in place additional emergency capacity in the absence of alternative housing solutions.

"This is very frustrating because we know that emergency accommodation is more expensive and less effective than other models such as Housing First.

"Yet Housing First 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."

The Joint Focus Ireland Peter McVerry Trust Housing First Service in Dublin | Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

The charity's annual report shows 4,584 unique individuals were supported across its services in 2016, while its bed capacity increased to 762 units.

It saw a 49% increase in residential placements provided last year, and over 3,600 emergency placements were provided in counties Dublin and Kildare.

It also says that 589 individuals are receiving ongoing housing with supports from the Peter McVerry Trust, while 98 individuals exited homelessness into independent living.