Tack­ling the prob­lem of home­less­ness

SEM­I­NAR HELD IN MERMAID

Bray People - - NEWS - MARY FOG­A­RTY

FR. PETER McVerry and for­mer Moun­tjoy Di­rec­tor John Lon­er­gan were at a re­cent ‘Com­mu­nity Re­spond­ing to Home­less­ness’ sem­i­nar in the Mermaid Arts Cen­tre in Bray, put on by Bray Home­less Fo­rum.

Chair­per­son of the fo­rum, An­nette Kennedy, said: ‘ The sem­i­nar is to in­form the com­mu­nity about the work of the fo­rum and also to seek com­mu­nity sup­port. No agency or group of agencies can re­solve the is­sue of home­less­ness but work­ing to­gether as a whole com­mu­nity we can and will make a dif­fer­ence.’

The sem­i­nar was opened by Chair of Bray Town Coun­cil, Tracy O’Brien, and speak­ers in­cluded Se­na­tor Aideen Hay­den, Chair of Thresh­old, who gave a na­tional per­spec­tive on hous­ing pro­vi­sion, chang­ing rental pat­terns and home­less­ness.

Mary O’Carolan of Bray Area Part­ner­ship de­scribed the lo­cal work of Bray Home­less Fo­rum, such as the de­vel­op­ment of a Home­less Ac­tion Team and yearly count of home­less people in the Bray area.

Is­sues af­fect­ing Bray were a drop in so­cial hous­ing and pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion at a time of higher de­mand, rent sup­ple­ment fall­ing short of real life rents and land­lords not will­ing to ac­cept ten­ants on rent sup­ple­ment.

An elo­quent tes­ti­mony fol­lowed from a lo­cal man de­scrib­ing his jour­ney through home­less­ness and the cru­cial role that sup­port from lo­cal com­mu­nity group Sa Bhaile played in his life.

The chal­lenges faced by lo­cal coun­cils try­ing to tackle home­less­ness was ad­dressed by Mar­garet Malone from Wick­low County Coun­cil, par­tic­u­larly lack of fund­ing.

Fr. Peter McVerry made an im­pas­sioned ad­dress say­ing that if Bray had a tsunami in the morn­ing and thou­sands of people were left home­less the state would rush in to re­solve the prob­lem.

He said the Govern­ment has ab­di­cated its re­spon­si­bil­ity for pro­vid­ing so­cial hous­ing and trans­ferred it to the pri­vate rented sec­tor, which is ef­fec­tively closed off to many people. He pointed out that pro­vid­ing in­de­pen­dent hous­ing is cheaper than keep­ing a per­son in a hos­tel at a cost of €30,000 a year.

He said the cri­sis is now so bad that to build so­cial hous­ing would take too long and sug­gested the Govern­ment pur­chase apart­ments to house home­less people – to buy 1,000 apart­ments would cost around €100 mil­lion – the same cost as the work to re­move traf­fic lights at New­lands Cross.

John Lon­er­gan praised the prac­ti­tion­ers present at the fo­rum and said that with­out their ac­tions the sit­u­a­tion would be even worse for home­less people in Bray. He said the home­less­ness sit­u­a­tion is sur­mount­able – all that is needed is vi­sion, strat­egy, a def­i­nite time­frame and proper re­sources.

He said people de­served a proper home, not just B&B, and that thor­ough­bred horses are treated bet­ter than home­less people in Ir­ish so­ci­ety. He en­cour­aged cit­i­zens to lobby politi­cians for real ac­tion on home­less­ness.

The sem­i­nar ended with a panel ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion chaired by RTE News pre­sen­ter Anthony Mur­nane and was closed by Leas Cathaoir­leach of Bray Town Coun­cil, Sarah Wray.

The group who took part in the ‘Com­mu­nity Re­spond­ing to Home­less­ness’ sem­i­nar at the Mermaid Cen­tre in Bray.

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