Housing First

'For the past year I've been sleeping on Henry Street... the keys to my own home. I haven't felt this way in a long, long time'

Peter McVerry Trust has said there’s been a sharp rise in the number of one-bedroom apartments on the market during the pandemic.

Peter McVerry Trust / YouTube

IN THE PAST few weeks, Peter McVerry Trust says it has housed 26 people as part of its Housing First programme, with more expected to be housed during the last weeks of April.

A sharp rise in one-bedroom apartments on the market during the Covid-19 crisis has helped the charity secure more accommodation and it says the aim now is to “secure as many of these as we can”. 

One of those who has benefitted is a 58-year-old man who’d lived on Henry Street in Dublin for the past six years. Benny moved into his new one-bedroom apartment on Good Friday. 

Ireland first signalled a shift away from the traditional “staircase” model of addressing homelessness and towards a housing first almost a decade ago

The staircase model would involve a homeless person going through a number of steps (for example getting clean from drugs, completing courses, etc) before they were allowed transition to a house.

Housing First flipped this model on its head with a secure, safe, permanent home with support being the primary goal; and recovery, therapy or whatever else is needed coming after that.

Finland adopted a housing first programme in 2008 and has all but eliminated long-term homelessness there.

Peter McVerry Trust says it is delivering 61% of Housing First homes in Ireland, with Benny one of the most recent to be helped by the charity.

He said: “For the past year, I’ve been sleeping on Henry Street. One of Peter McVerry Trust’s staff said he would help me and how did he help me? He gave me these keys, the keys to my own home.

I’m quite happy, quite emotional to be honest. I haven’t felt this way in a long, long time. You see these keys, they’re going to be handcuffed to my wrist. I’m not letting them go, ever.

The charity’s CEO Pat Doyle says there’s always been a challenge accessing one-bedroom apartments to house single people who make up the majority of those experiencing homelessness.

“At the minute we are doing well between Peter McVerry Trust, local authority and private rental properties, but we hope to do more.”

Doyle says his staff are ensuring the apartments are set up and ready to go, with people having their first grocery shop as they arrive at their new home.

“Many of the individuals targeted by the [Housing First] programme are most at risk from COVID-19 because of their health.”

The fact that we are able to secure, make ready, and move people into housing is great because it provides them with a home that they can self-isolate or cocoon in.

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