McVerry warns Government will be judged on homelessness at next election

A total of 16 children reportedly slept in Garda Stations last night

McVerry warns Government will be judged on homelessness at next election

File photo of Fr Peter McVerry at a press conference in Dublin, 26-06-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Homelessness activist Fr Peter McVerry has warned the Government that it will be judged on its response homeless and housing crisis at the next election.

Fr McVerry was speaking after a mother and her six children were forced to sleep at Tallaght Garda Station last night because they had nowhere else to go.

Gardaí said officers tried all the homeless shelter emergency lines and a number of local hotels - however no accommodation could be found.

Speaking to Jonathan Healy on the Pat Kenny Show this morning, Fr McVerry said he was "shocked but not surprised" to hear the news.

"This is not a unique situation," he said. "This has happened before with families."

"It highlights the fact that this housing policy is simply not working - in fact things are getting worse.

"They are getting worse and worse and there is no policy that is trying to reverse the situation and unfortunately, I expect this to become much more common."

He noted that in an interview last year the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe admitted that this Government will be judged on its response to the homeless and housing crisis.

"I would like to remind people of that," he said.

"That is what he said and I think we should remind him of that before the next election.

"We need action. We need radical action and we need it fast."

Margaret Cash, who was forced to sleep at Tallaght Garda Statoin with her six young children last night. Image: Henry McKean

"Absurd"

Noting that the IMF recently announced Ireland as the fifth richest country in the world - based on purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita - Fr McVerry said the homeless crisis represents a national scandal.

"We have the fastest growing economy in the EU and we have this situation and it is probably going to increase," he said.

"It is absolutely absurd; it highlights the fact Government policy isn't working, but they won't admit it isn't working.

"Until they admit it isn't working and try and do something else, we are not going to get anywhere."

"Shocking and unbelievable"

Inner City Helping Homeless CEO Anthony Flynn said eight other families were referred to Garda stations because of a lack of accommodation in Dublin last night.

"In the last five years you know, I thought I had seen everything," he said.

"What I saw last night was just totally shocking an unbelievable. I don't think it is acceptable at any level

"We need to find out who referred these people to Garda stations last night. We were able to accommodate two families last night when they arrived here at 9:30pm.

"How many families do we not know about? How many families are out there that we are not being informed about that are being referred to Garda stations or other avenues? It is totally unacceptable."

"Unprecedented"

In a statement the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said it is "very aware of the difficult circumstances that families experiencing homelessness have to face."

It said an "unprecedented number of families presented out of hours seeking emergency accommodation" last night.

The Executive was notified that the Focus Ireland Family Homeless Action Team was "actively engaged with 10 families, who were unable to source their own accommodation."

"Our Central Placement Team were able to source emergency accommodation for five of the families," it said.

"One family refused the offer of accommodation, two of the families were linked back in with their region (outside of Dublin) and two did not seek further assistance."

Government priority

The executive also issued a Government response stating that: "Addressing homelessness is a priority for this Government and we are absolutely committed to increasing the delivery of housing to ensure that we can deliver solutions for those experiencing homelessness."

The Government said it has ring-fenced funding under Rebuilding Ireland to increase the social housing stock by 50,000 homes by 2021.

It said there are currently 21 family hubs in operation around the country that " offer family living arrangements with a greater level of stability" until longer-term solutions can be found.

Meanwhile, a national Director of Housing First has been appointed to work with the most vulnerable members of the homeless population and " high-level Inter-Agency Group" has been established to "ensure a more cohesive  Government response to homelessness."

Papal visit

Fr McVerry said the situation is likely to worsen in the coming weeks as tens of thousands of tourists descend of the capital for the visit of the Pope to Ireland.

The influx is likely to put even more pressure on hotel accommodation where many homeless families are currently staying.

"I don't think there is going to be any hotel accommodation for anybody," he said.

"I am not aware of any plan and if there is plan it should have been put into operation last night for this particular family.

"I think we could just be overwhelmed when the Pope comes."