Fr McVerry's 'surprise' after minister claims homeless rate is 'low'
Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has taken issue with comments made by a Government minister at the launch of his trust's annual report.
Fr McVerry said he does not know of any capital city where homelessness is as visible as it is in Dublin.
He was responding after Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy claimed the rate of homelessness here is low.
"Thankfully our rate of homelessness in Ireland, compared to other countries, is low by international standards," Mr Murphy said, speaking at the launch of the Peter McVerry Trust's annual report in Croke Park yesterday.
"Which is a good thing. But it's also a good thing that we don't think that's good enough."
However, Fr McVerry said he would be surprised if that was the case and said he was going to look into it.
"I don't believe there is any other capital city where you see so many people sleeping on the streets and so many people begging," Fr McVerry told the Herald after the minister's address.
"I don't know of any other capital city that has this visibility. It would surprise me if our figures were low compared to other countries."
He also warned of a new wave of homelessness, as banks crack down on 32,000 private homeowners in mortgage arrears of more than two years.
Fr McVerry said Irish banks were facing pressure from the European Central Bank (ECB) to go after homeowners.
"The banks have been repossessing houses where people are renting from a landlord where the landlord has not been able to pay the mortgage," he said.
"They really have not yet gone after homeowners who are in mortgage arrears.
"But the ECB is putting huge pressure on the Irish banks to solve this problem within the next two to three years, so there's going to be a rush now on resolving those 32,000 home-ownership mortgages.
"There's another 15,000 buy-to-let still in mortgage arrears of more than two years," he added.
Fr McVerry said banks would be fined heavily by the ECB if the problem was not resolved.
"The easiest way for the banks to resolve them - repossesses them, throw people out and sell them to vulture funds.
"That's the easy way out and unfortunately, unless Government policy changes, I fear that's the way the banks are going to go," he said.
He called on the Government to introduce mortgage-to-rent "across the board" to stop the problem before it starts.
The trust called for more resources to go toward building homes, rather than emergency accommodation, in order to solve the housing crisis.
The report showed the charity supported 4,584 individuals across its services in 2016.
It has achieved a 28-fold increase in its bed capacity over the last 10 years, with 762 bed units by the end of last year. It said the average age of people it was helping was 32.
There was a 49pc increase in residential placements in the year and more than 3,600 emergency placements in Dublin and Kildare.
Some 589 individuals received ongoing housing with the support of the trust, while 98 individuals exited homelessness into independent living.