Belfast Telegraph

Campaigners hope Pope will focus spotlight on homeless during visit

A homeless advocacy group says it hopes Francis uses his global clout to force Ireland’s government to tackle the issue.

A homeless advocacy group says it hopes Pope Francis uses his global clout to force Ireland’s government to tackle the crisis.

The pontiff is to visit Dublin’s Capuchin Day Centre on Saturday August 25 as part of his visit to Ireland.

Founded by Capuchin Brother Kevin Crowley, the centre provides around 1,000 hot meals a day, clothing and showers for some of Dublin’s homeless population.

Campaigners say the homelessness crisis has now reached boiling point, with 9,874 homeless people across Ireland in June 2018, according to the Department of Housing.

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Pope Francis will visit a day centre for the homeless during his visit (Tim Rooke/PA)

In the last three years, there has been an increase in the number of families becoming homeless and, in June 2018, there were 1,754 families accessing emergency accommodation, which includes 3,824 children.

The number of families becoming homeless has increased by 28% since June 2017, and more than one in three of those in emergency accommodation is now a child.

The largest percentage of homeless people across all age groups live in Dublin.

Volunteer-run organisation Inner City Helping Homeless, now in its fifth year of operation, runs seven days a week, 365 days a year and provides supplies, a sympathetic ear, and case managers for those living on Dublin streets.

The Pope has a huge audience, the world will be watching, he has to highlight the plights in this country and force the government’s hand Brian McLoughlin

Spokesman Brian McLoughlin says he hopes the Government will be shamed into action.

“The Taoiseach really cares what he’s thought of outside the country, that’s a big issue for him.

“So, for our Government to be publicly called out on an international stage, and it’s sad that it might take that, but if it does have an impact, that can only be positive.”

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(PA Graphics)

The biggest change homeless groups say they are faced with is the type of people presenting as homeless.

“When I started here three years ago, most people had mental health issues or drug issues, however now we see people who have none of those problems.

“We see so many families made homeless by the private rental market, we’ve had to adapt, we’ve had to convert an old storage room into a family friendly soft play area.

“We’ve had pensioners present to us as homeless, they were put into a hostel with a lot of drug use, that was not suitable.

“We’re all guilty of having a perception of what homelessness is, people sitting outside a shop with a cup in their hand, that’s no longer the case.”

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Capuchin monk Brother Kevin Crowley helps volunteers hand out nearly 900 food parcels (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr McLoughlin says Ireland’s homelessness crisis is now gathering attention overseas.

“I would say that Ireland’s homelessness problem is so prolific that it has been brought to the Pope’s attention.

“This is the worst it’s ever been in the history of the state.

“Brother Kevin has become even more relied upon in these last few years, I think its fantastic he is getting recognition he deserves, he is a living saint.

“However, I hope the Pope does use the position that he has when he’s in Ireland to highlight the homelessness problem and push for change that’s urgently needed.

“The Pope has a huge audience, the world will be watching, he has to highlight the plights in this country and force the Government’s hand.”

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A cushion in an area often used by the homeless just off Dublin’s Kildare Street (Brian Lawless/PA)

Charity Focus Ireland says the current state of the crisis is down to long running problems such as the decision to cut social housing spending by 72% between 2008 and 2012.

Short term measures such as Rent Supplement levels, rising rents and reduced welfare rates for people under 25 have also added to the issue.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast about the visit to the Centre, Brother Kevin said: “It is fabulous that he (Pope) is giving such precious time to the homeless people and, of course, I am not surprised by that because everywhere he went he made a special effort to be involved with the poor.”

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