Tuesday 18 December 2018

WATCH: 'We got a home for Christmas' - Inside look at new social housing units

Damien English, Jade Ashton and Pat Doyle
Damien English, Jade Ashton and Pat Doyle
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

A number of homeless families are looking forward to the festive season in their new homes after the Peter McVerry Trust formally launched 13 new social housing units in Dublin’s city centre.

The new units consist of seven two-bedroom apartments and six one-bed apartments, which the trust has reported can be difficult to source in the capital.

The units at Castle Street, which cost €3.7m, were delivered in partnership with the Housing Agency and Dublin City Council.

Peter Doyle, the chief executive of the Peter McVerry Trust, said it was one of a number of new developments the charity will deliver in the next three months.

“In the next few months, we will open other new social housing developments in Dublin and other areas,” he said.

“This means more homes for people who are impacted by homelessness, particularly single people who make up the majority of those in homelessness.

“Fortunately, we are seeing the fruits of months and years of hard work to bring forward new housing projects.”

Jade Ashton is looking forward to buying a Christmas tree for her children this weekend as she prepared to move into one of the new Dublin city centre social housing units.

“I was so happy when I saw it I started crying with happiness,” said the mum of Kendall (5) and Alfie (2).

Jade (25) took her children to see their apartment on Monday night.

“They were very happy after it,” she said.

She also told how it means “everything” to be in a new home for Christmas.

“I know how happy they’re going to be seeing the Christmas tree,” she said, adding that she could not get one while they were in emergency accommodation.

“You’d have to put it on the floor in the middle of your room. Kendall is delighted,” she said.

“I could tell that they felt at home when they got here.”

Originally from Dolphin’s Barn, Jade has spent the past two-and-a-half years in emergency accommodation, one year in a hotel and then a B&B.

“It’s horrible,” she said about living in such a confined space.

Even things like storing Christmas presents was difficult in a small space last year.

“There was nowhere for them to play. It was really hard,” Jade said.

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry says the issue is now at ‘crisis level’ Picture: Caroline Quinn
Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry says the issue is now at ‘crisis level’ Picture: Caroline Quinn

However, the family is now looking forward to the festive season.

Another mother who received the keys to her apartment yesterday was Joanne Tobin (24), who also has two children.

“I was homeless for over two years, living in a hotel. It was really hard, especially with a new baby. It was just horrible,” she said.

Joanne, who has a seven-month-old boy and a four-year-old girl, added: “I just wanted my own space.”

When she found out she had been allocated one of the apartments, she was thrilled.

“I can’t explain the feeling when I got this. It was just magic,” she said.

Fr Peter McVerry has said that while many organisations are working hard to house people experiencing homelessness, “it’s a bit like trying to stop a runaway train with no brakes”.

“The train just keeps going faster and faster,” he wrote in the annual report of the Peter McVerry Trust.

By the end of last year the number of homeless adults was 865 higher than at the beginning.

“Homelessness is now at crisis level,” Fr McVerry said.

“It is not just a social crisis but a personal crisis for each and every person who becomes homeless.”

His comments came as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the latest figures for the number of people sleeping rough as “very disappointing” in the Dail.

The figures from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) showed there was an increase from 110 to 156 in the count in the spring.

Fr McVerry said in the report: “A worrying development during 2017 was an apparently deliberate attempt by some government and state officials to change the narrative.

“They tried to minimise the problem of homelessness by declaring that ‘our housing crisis is completely normal’ and again ‘comparatively, our rates of homelessness are low when we look at our peers, and that is a good thing’.

“Life as a homeless person is intensely miserable.

“Not knowing where or if you will have a bed for the night, not knowing who you will be sharing accommodation with, and often having to walk the streets all day long is no life for anyone.”

The report was launched as the Peter McVerry Trust formally launched 13 new social housing units in Dublin’s city centre at Castle Street at a cost of €3.7m.

Meanwhile, Junior Housing Minister Damien English – who officially opened the new units in the city centre – was asked to respond to the comments by Fr McVerry in the trust’s annual report.

“It’s true to say that the number of people who are homeless is very high,” Mr English said.

“No one is denying that, and that is why we are here today providing more accommodation, providing more homes.”

The minister said Fr McVerry had correctly highlighted that the problem got worse during 2017.

However, he pointed out that a national plan for homelessness was in place.

He also addressed Fr McVerry’s criticism of the Government’s conduct.

“We have never tried to change the narrative,” Mr English said.

He added that he and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy regularly take part in debates and discussions on homelessness.

“We are the ones that provide the figures,” he said.

The report also revealed that the charity worked with 4,971 people last year, a record number in its 34-year history.

Herald

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