Ring-fence USC to end homeless crisis, says McVerry
The homeless crisis in Ireland could be solved by ring-fencing the money generated by the Universal Social Charge over the next five years and using it to build houses, campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said.
Calling on the Taoiseach to declare a state of emergency on housing and homelessness, he told the Irish Independent: "We can house everybody in this country, if we have the political will to do so."
He also warned that if the Government houses Syrian refugees - while leaving homeless people on the streets - then "they are building a very divisive society that will have very racist attitudes".
"Already I am hearing 'we should be looking after our own'," he warned.
Asked if the incoming refugees would compound the homeless crisis, Fr McVerry warned the situation has to be "handled very carefully".
"I can see the refugees being put into emergency accommodation like hotels that have been bought but I can't see them getting out of it - there is no accommodation to go to."
Fr McVerry said it was a "disgrace" that there are currently 100,000 households on social housing waiting lists. He warned that unless something radical is done, there is little hope of addressing this.
"A county councillor was telling me recently that they have 4,000 on the social housing waiting list in their local authority area and they are building 43 houses. We have a huge deficit in social housing."
Referring to Fine Gael's promise to abolish the USC if re-elected, he said the Government could use the €4bn it generates every year to address the crisis. Over five years it would generate €20bn which he said "would eliminate homelessness".
He said in Dublin "there is an extra 1,000 people accessing homeless emergency accommodation since this time last year and there still are not enough beds. They opened 100 (extra) beds . . . and there are still about 150 people sleeping on the street or in the Merchant's Quay café."