Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry warned in Nenagh last week that a “tsunami of homelessness was coming down the road”.
He predicted that with 35,000 mortgages now more than two years in arrears, and the expectation that between 15,000 and 20,000 homes would be repossesed, many people will look to the State for accommodation.
“The buy-to-let tenants will be turfed out when the banks want vacant possession,” he warned.
He further warned that homelessness and housing will be the major problem for the next five.
“It could even bring down the Government,” he told a packed audience in Nenagh Pastoral Centre, where he revealed he had been in the same class as Nenagh’s Bishop Michael Courteney.
Fr McVerry pointed out that the country was now looking at a different kind of homeless, with the majority being “invisible”. We have a number of homeless people in third level education.”
He said that dealing with the homeless had made him “angry” and he was “glad to be angry”.
“We, as a society, have failed them. We don’t give them the services to lift the burden off their shoulders,” he said.
Pointing out that it had been estimated that it would cost E100m to solve the problem in Dublin, he revealed the Government had spent the same amount of money “getting rid of the only set of traffic lights between Limerick and Dublin at Newlands Cross so traffic could move faster. The hardest part of being homeless is that nobody cares. Your life has no meaning or value to anybody else.”
Fr McVerry also questioned the reliance on the Methadone programme to wean people off heroin, saying it was more addictive than heroin and most drug users who overdose do so on Methadone.
“I often suggest to people trying to get off drugs to go back on heroin for a while and go cold turkey rather than use Methadone,” he said.
Youth umeployment was also a “huge problem” and the boredom was “driving them back to drugs”, he said.
However, he pointed out that there were an estimated 20,000 heroin users in Ireland, yet there were only 35 beds, a figure he described as a “disgrace”.
However, people took drugs for different reasons, some out of peer pressure, others to forget their childhood memories, as “drugs work if you want to forget”.
The Fr McVerry Trust had its origins in 1974 when he was in Dublin’s north inner city where the “rats were as big as kittens”. They now have 13 hostels, 130 apartments, four drug treatment centres and a drop-in centre.