NORTHSIDE based priest and champion of the homeless,Fr Peter McVerry, has spoken out about his frustration, anger and shame of having to turn people away from his shelters at a time when the city has a glut of empty properties.
The Ballymun resident and founder of the Peter McVerry Trust told Northside People how his charity is unable to cater for the number of homeless people who turn to it for help.
“There’s no doubt that the number of homeless people has increased significantly in the last 12 months,” he explained.
“But our hands are somewhat tied because we’ve had a 25 per cent reduction in our funding in the last three years.
“We’ve had many nights when we’ve had to turn people away leaving them with nowhere to sleep but the streets and it’s got to the stage where I’m reluctant to put anyone on the waiting list because it’s so long.
“It used to be two weeks but now it’s more like three months.”
Fr McVerry believes that the recession has significantly added to the homelessness crisis, as money worries have caused many relationships to break down.
The Trust is supporting twice as many people as this time last year and has been forced to cut its expenditure down to a “bare minimum”.
“In the 22 years since we opened our first hostel, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such hopelessness about the homelessness situation,” he revealed.
“It breaks my heart and I feel I shouldn’t have to tell people that there’s nothing we can do.
“It’s an absolute disgrace and a total scandal that we as a country are allowing people to live like this.
“We are not that poor of a country that we can’t afford to see to it that everyone has a bed to sleep in, especially when there are so many vacant units in our towns and cities.”
He added: “The failure of the Government and State to provide for the most vulnerable people in our society is an absolute scandal.”
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of non-Irish nationals who have been left with little option but to sleep rough, according to Fr McVerry.
“These are people who came to this country to work but lost their jobs in the recession,” he explained.
“They are not entitled to social welfare so they have no money for food or accommodation. They are trapped in their homelessness and trapped in this country.”
Fr McVerry fears that the homelessness situation will inevitably lead people to abuse drugs to cope with life on the streets.
“If people suddenly find themselves sleeping rough because they’ve lost their jobs or their personal relationships have broken down, they will undoubtedly feel very low, demoralised and desperate,” he explained.
“Drugs will be in their face and it does become very difficult to keep saying no, so often people are likely to give in and take something to give them a little buzz and to make things a little more bearable, even if it is for a short time.”
The Peter McVerry Trust relies heavily on the public and private sector for financial support and donations so it can continue to provide vital services to young homeless people.
• If you would like to help Open Doors For Homeless People, contact Peter McVerry Trust on 8230776 or visit www.pmvtrust.ieMore Information - http://www.pmvtrust.ie