Tackling the problem of homelessness
SEMINAR HELD IN MERMAID
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.