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"Mammy, why is the dog allowed in the garden and we are not?"

Fr Peter McVerry has spoken of the rules facing families in emergency accommodation at the Oireachtas Homeless Committee.

4083932036_937c1a502b_o Source: Elliott Brown

HOMELESS CAMPAIGNER FR Peter McVerry says that homeless children living in emergency accommodation are forbidden from playing in the garden of the accommodation they are living in.

Speaking before the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness, Fr McVerry told the story of a family he had heard about who were living in emergency accommodation in a hotel.

“The members of that family were not allowed to mix with the other residents.  They were not allowed to eat in the restaurant,” he said.

They had to come in the back door because they were not allowed in the front door.  They were not allowed to sit in the garden on a lovely sunny day even though all the paying residents were in the garden.

mcverry Fr Peter McVerry Source: Oireachtas.ie

McVerry was speaking regarding the issue of depression and homelessness, and the public perception that “if people are homeless, there must be something wrong with them”.

He described how when the homeless family in question wanted to go for a walk they had to walk through the hotel’s garden:

“As they were doing so, the seven-year-old boy asked: ‘Mammy, why is the dog allowed in the garden and we are not?’.  That is an example of how people’s self-esteem can hit rock bottom.”

Decrying the emergency accommodation services in Ireland as “a total and utter disaster”, McVerry said that Taoiseach Enda Kenny should declare a state of emergency regarding Ireland’s homeless situation, which he said is the only way to instigate positive action from the government.

“He would do if there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the morning,” he said.

At end April there were more than 6,100 people living in emergency accommodation in Ireland, an increase of over 100 people month-on-month since March.

McVerry said that local councils should be using compulsory purchase orders in order to buy vacant properties. Recently it emerged that there are 230,000 such vacant properties across the country.

“There are certainly going to be well in excess of 100,000 households on the social housing waiting list (this year),” he said.

He further called for an additional 1,000 modular housing units to be constructed in the Dublin area, and for “3,000 to 5,000″ rapid build units for students to be constructed around the country, thus taking some pressure off the overstretched rental sector.

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