Monday 20 August 2018

Fr Peter McVerry 'absolutely furious' over claims that voluntary services aren't helping homelessness long-term

Fr Peter McVerry
Fr Peter McVerry
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Father Peter McVerry has said that he is "absolutely furious" with a top Dublin City Council official who claimed that voluntary outreach services are not helping homeless people in the long-term.

Eileen Gleeson, Director of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, said that while organisations who provide things like food, hot drinks and sleeping bags to the homeless are "well-intentioned", it's not good in the long term.

Speaking on The Sean O'Rourke Show on RTE Radio One today, Ms Gleeson said: "The point I am trying to make is that structured professional supports, which the DRHE fund and have organisations operating under, have better outcomes for people who are homeless or are experiencing homelessness.

"Whereas people who are in unprotected structures, such as volunteers who are providing soup and sandwiches, and are well-intentioned don't necessarily solve the problem for us in the long term.

"I'm not criticising the volunteers or their motivation, what I'm saying is that with a professional, structured support there is an outcome; with an unprofessional, unstructured support, all they are getting is soup and a sandwich."

She continued to speak about the "standards" that should be required from those working with the homeless population.

Stock image
Stock image

Ms Gleeson said: "Homelessness is complicated and in providing services there are standards and requirements that should be met, particularly when dealing with vulnerable adults and children.

"People don't become homeless overnight, it's a chaotic lifestyle that people lead, they have particular problems and they need to be worked with.

"Somebody becomes homeless for whatever reason, they're on the streets, begging and they're behaving in a way that isn't how other people behave, there are health and other issues."

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Leading campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said he was "absolutely furious at what Eileen Gleeson said."

Speaking on The Sean O'Rourke Show, he said: "What she said was an insult to homeless people, she said that people don't become homeless overnight but the majority of people do become homeless overnight.

"They become homeless because the landlord evicts them, because they cannot afford to pay the rent or because the landlords say they're selling their house or because the banks have re-possessed the landlord's house because the landlord hasn't paid their mortgage."

He also hit out at comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said as the weekend that Ireland has “one of the lowest levels of homelessness” by international standards.

Fr McVerry refuted this, explaining: "When the Taoiseach said we have a low level of homelessness compared to other countries he is actually quoting an OECD report from 2015, which is now out of date.

"It explicitly states that you cannot use the report to compare homelessness between countries because countries use different definitions of homelessness."

He explained that many other countries class people who are staying with friends and family because they can't find other alternative as homeless, which we don't.

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Brother Kevin Crowley, who runs the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, has also criticised Ms Gleeson's comments.

Champion of the homeless Brother Kevin Crowley. Picture: Arthur Carron
Champion of the homeless Brother Kevin Crowley. Picture: Arthur Carron

He said: "To be quite honest I was appalled by her statement - we have people leaving here in the evening times, after half three after having a dinner.

"Some of those people are walking the streets at nighttime and certainly they’re glad to get a cup of tea or a cup of soup because otherwise what will they do for the rest of the night if they don’t get something to drink or to eat?"

He said that while the DRHE does provide some beds they can be very difficult to obtain and that hostels aren't always a safe option.

Brother Crowley said: "It's impossible to get the beds at nighttime, you wouldn't have people walking the streets at night if they could.

"A number of people are also afraid to go into the hostels at night because they are afraid of getting robbed, they are afraid of the drugs and sometimes they could get attacked or stabbed and some of the hostels are appalling for how they treat people.

"Our main priority is to respect the dignity of the homeless people.

"I would do anything to keep people alive and to try to make sure that nobody goes hungry."

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