Sir, – The changing profile of people becoming homeless, as described by Fr Peter McVerry (“Apartheid Irish-style created by housing policy”, Opinion & Analysis, June 27th) and highlighted by your reporter Kitty Holland many times (“Government plan to end rough sleeping by 2016 not feasible, says McVerry”, June 26th), is an issue that needs urgent attention.
It is clear why the current situation has arisen and it is a situation that appears overwhelming. Would calling in members of the Defence Forces to kick-start the maintenance of vacant local authority housing be a solution to be scoffed at? Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan has a difficult task and to address this issue she needs the support of all relevant government departments and indeed all of us.
Many people we meet on a daily basis in Trust have been rehoused in the past. In a given month we can meet people from 26 different countries who sleep rough. Some of the people we meet are very challenging to deal with because of their personal issues, some apparent from a very young age, including mental health problems, addiction, low self-esteem and often feeling complete outsiders in our society. All these issues take time to resolve if a solution, if there is one, is ever to be reached. For that reason rough sleeping, which is a worldwide phenomenon, will not be solved on our little island by 2016. There will always be a need for very basic, clean, warm and safe emergency shelter (this should not cost the earth) to ensure people are not isolated further, rejected and forgotten about.
The right to shelter must not be ignored. Rights, however, must attach some personal responsibility, however small, otherwise the situation we find ourselves in will race out of control, at enormous expense to the taxpayer. – Yours, etc,