Belfast Telegraph

Government must take 'brave' decisions to fight homelessness, say church leaders

Church leaders have called for the Government to take "brave" decisions to tackle the homelessness and housing crisis.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Laurence Graham, said the issue is an growing problem.

The clerics also expressed sorrow over the recent deaths of homeless people.

"While accepting that homelessness has many causes and there is no 'one size fits all solution', we believe it is imperative that the Government take the brave decisions needed to tackle the crisis that has been an increasing scandal for our country," the clerics said.

"The flow of families and individuals into homelessness must be addressed urgently."

They welcomed the emergency summit organised by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

Heads of the country's 31 local authorities and senior civil servants are meeting to discuss additional solutions to alleviate the unprecedented housing crisis.

"Our hopes and prayers are that all who are involved in these talks will devote their energy and efforts to finding an innovative, well thought out, structured resolution for all those who are most deeply affected by homelessness," the clerics said.

In their statement they also called for "constructive compassion as a matter of extreme urgency".

There have been at least three deaths of homeless people in the last week, including two rough sleepers and one suicide.

A vigil to raise awareness of the crisis, organised by the Home Sweet Home campaign, was cancelled following reports that one of those who died on the streets was a sex offender.

"Jack" Watson, as he asked to be known when being assisted by homelessness outreach workers, returned to Ireland from Australia in 2015. He used a number of aliases and had also spent time in the UK.

Home Sweet Home, which led the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin last winter to provide emergency beds, said the vigil was cancelled out of respect for victims.

Watson had stayed in the building for a while.

"This does not change the fact that many people have died as a result of our housing emergency," the group said.

"This is totally unacceptable and urgently needs to be addressed."

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