Fr Peter McVerry
Organisers of a public meeting next week want to draw attention to what they call the hidden problem of homelessness in Donegal.
The seminar, “Housing and Homelessness: Donegal’s Hidden Problem”, takes place at 7.30pm, Thursday, Oct. 26th, at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny.
Speakers will include Father Peter McVerry of the Peter McVerry Trust; Declan Dunne, CEO of the Respond Housing Association; and David Hall, CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association.
Thomas Pringle, independent TD, is sponsoring the seminar and will serve as co-chairperson.
“Homelessness has now reached every part of Ireland and is on the rise in Donegal, as rents and house prices continue to increase alongside the rate of distressed mortgages,” Deputy Pringle said. “We can no longer ignore it and must hold the government to account for their wholly inadequate response to the crisis and their wholly inadequate policies, which have caused homelessness in the first place.”
The conference is free and open to the public.
The idea for the conference came about through a group of Donegal citizens who were concerned about what they saw as the lack of open discussion and debate on issues of housing and homelessness in Donegal and the west of Ireland.
“All our group ever wanted to do is say there's an issue here and we want to talk about it,” Alan McMenamin, a member of the organising committee, said.
He said homelessness too often is considered an issue solely for Dublin and other cities, but this is not the case.
Organisers believe the focus on homelessness in Dublin overshadows the larger issue, “and does a disservice to those in our region who are struggling, who have lost their family homes, who have become homeless, who have lived in homeless or emergency accommodation and ultimately have had their rights to housing eroded.”
The group’s aim is to highlight the need for open and transparent debate across the north west, and to identify problems surrounding housing and homelessness.
Among the issues that concern them are the lack of uniform means of reporting and recording homelessness, which they believe tends to leave the number of homeless people underreported, especially in rural areas.
Organisers want to see the right to housing enshrined as a basic human right in the Irish Constitution, giving the necessary resources to statutory agencies, local authorities and housing bodies to have this as the primary focus of their energies.
Deputy Pringle agreed. “It’s time to have a conversation on the need for a social housing programme alongside the right to housing as a means to prevent such a crisis from developing again,” he said.
He said Fine Gael policies “have failed to provide for the basic need of people in Ireland to be housed in safe and affordable accommodation. Still, there is no sign of any substantial social housing programme to address this ongoing crisis.”
Mr. McMenamin said, “We want a more open and creative approach to the problem, as traditional approaches are not working.”