14 Aug 2022

WATCH: Most vulnerable homeless people continue to be housed during Covid-19 pandemic

Peter McVerry Trust, the national housing and homeless charity says it has been able to increase the number of people housed by the Housing First programme since the onset of Covid-19. 

Housing First, which targets people sleeping rough and the longest-term hostel users for housing and intensive supports, has housed 26 people in the past few weeks, with more move-ons expected before the end of April.

One of the people housed by the charity in the past week is Benny, a 58-year-old man who had slept rough on and off for six years on Dublin’s Henry Street. He has now been housed by Peter McVerry Trust in his own one-bedroom apartment.

On Good Friday he moved into his new home. Benny explained what this meant for him:

“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.”

Pat Doyle, CEO said “Even in the midst of the pandemic we are still able to house people and help them to exit homelessness and we’ve helped 26 people secure a new home since the Covid-19 restrictions were imposed. The Housing First programme in particular is incredibly important as it works with people sleeping rough, people who have been using hostels for the longest, and those with the most complex needs. Many of the individuals targeted by the 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.”

“Our staff are making sure the apartments are set up and ready to go, that the furniture and starter kits are ready, and that people have their first grocery shop before they arrive at their new home. This allows us to minimise physical interaction with the client group but still deliver on essential services.”

Housing First, which is a national programme targeting the most complex cases in homelessness is funded under the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy and is coordinated by the National Director of Housing First, Bob Jordan. Each local authority across Ireland now has its own local targets up to the end of 2021.

Mr Doyle said there was now a real opportunity to secure more one-bedroom apartments to aid programmes like Housing First.

“The challenge has always been accessing enough one-bedroom apartments to house single people who make up the majority of people 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.

The fact is that, with COVID-19, there has been a sharp rise in the number of one-bedroom apartments on the market. The goal is to secure as many of these as we can, in order to move people into their own homes which, alongside long-term leased homes and traditional social housing, will take more people out of homelessness for good.”

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