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'Change policy, not housing minister', insists Fr McVerry

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Fr Peter McVerry

Fr Peter McVerry

Fr Peter McVerry

One of the country's leading homelessness campaigners has said he does not support calls for a no confidence vote in the housing minister, despite a worsening crisis.

Fr Peter McVerry, whose charity has been tackling homelessness for four decades, said that people should "challenge the message and not the messenger" in order to tackle the record high of homeless people.

This week, Sinn Fein stated that it will table a motion of no confidence in Eoghan Murphy when the Dail returns.

Asked if he agreed with the proposal, Fr McVerry told the Herald: "No, I don't support that motion. Eoghan Murphy is not the problem. Government policy is the problem.

"Eoghan Murphy is the mouthpiece for the Government policy. It's Government policy we have to change. We have to challenge the message and not the messenger."

Emperor

The veteran campaigner added that current official homeless figures of around 10,000 may be significantly lower than the actual number, which he believes to be around 15,000.

"When will the emperor finally realise that he has no clothes? Homeless figures are up, house prices are up and the fact that Government policy has failed is staring us all in the face," he said.

Fr McVerry was speaking as an umbrella movement of trade unions, political parties and campaign groups called for support for the Raise the Roof rally outside Leinster House at 12.30pm on October 3.

It coincides with an opposition party motion on housing that is scheduled to be debated in the Dail that day.

The umbrella movement includes the Irish Congress of Trade Unions ICTU, the Union of Students Ireland (USI), the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland and several other groups.

ICTU president Sheila Nunan said that the crisis "is an issue for everyone" and that a dramatic increase in the supply of quality, affordable housing is needed.

Meanwhile, a report by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE), which co-ordinates homeless services across the city and county, reveals a gap emerging between families presenting as homeless due to family circumstances and because of problems in the rental sector. Between February and June, more families have presented as the result of the inability to secure private rented accommodation, the report says.

The DRHE says it recognises that work is under way to strengthen the protections for tenants in private rented accommodation, particularly in relation to the sale and repair of their rented properties and the obligations of landlords.

In February, 57pc of those who presented as homeless were due to difficulties in the private rental sector, compared with 38pc who presented due to reasons associated with family circumstances.

Problems

In January 2017, 63pc of presentations were due to family circumstances.

However, in the latest data from June, 52pc of presentations were because of rental problems compared with 39pc who presented because of family circumstances.

Between January and July, 677 families presented as homeless in Dublin. The overall increase of families was 178.

The DRHE said this was a "direct result of the ongoing work being carried out by the DRHE exiting families from homeless services to tenancies".

A review of the freephone services and supports for people who are not eligible for housing supports is currently under way.

It comes as the latest construction figures show that Dublin City Council has only built 192 new homes.

The council is at 40pc of its target for the year - 721 homes have been delivered overall on a minimum target of 1,763.


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