By Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust
I am delighted to be writing this now that Peter McVerry Trust are on the ground helping families impacted by homelessness in Galway City. In the past fortnight we have started operating the Westside Modular Family Hub in partnership with Galway City Council.
There we will be supporting up to 15 families at any one time, families that would otherwise be stuck in hotels or B&Bs. From day one our staff will work with every family in the service to meet their needs and progress as many as we can, as quickly as we can, into housing.
We know that Galway’s housing market is one of the most challenging markets in the country but there are opportunities that can be secured. The challenge now for Peter McVerry Trust is to go and deliver.
There are few positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one glimmer of hope is that we can move to end the abnormal situation of using accommodation built for tourists to accommodate people in homelessness, and houses and apartments being used to accommodate the tourists. Our responsibility and our goal must be to reduce the number of people in homelessness as quickly as we can. The COVID-19 pandemic is opening more doors to accommodation that would not have previously been available. We have a window of opportunity to move a higher number of families out of homelessness that would otherwise be the case. We have to grasp this opportunity and maximise it to the best possible extent.
Three more locations
As I write, Peter McVerry Trust is reviewing three locations in Galway City and we hope to be able to deliver a minimum of 30 social housing units in the next few months. These opportunities are really only an option because the market for tourist accommodation and investor interest has dried up with the economic impact of COVID-19.
As an organisation we review, assess and seek to make work every housing opportunity that comes our way. We have a strong track record in delivering for the most vulnerable and will house over 500 people this year across Ireland. We are happy to take on projects that others may refuse, and in particular we have brought hundreds of long term vacant and derelict homes back into use in recent years.
This in addition to our leasing, purchasing and more recently building of social housing units gives us the tools to create more pathways out of homelessness. For Peter McVerry Trust, coming to Galway is not about duplication of existing services but about adding value, and what is clear is that we absolutely need as many social housing units as we can deliver, because the first thing a person experiencing homelessness needs is a home.
In coming to Galway we want to be a partner to the organisations already here on the frontline, like Simon and Cope, to work closely with the City Council and public representatives to make progress in tackling homelessness in the City. We hope in time to establish our regional office in the city and are already working with Galway County Council on schemes like the Repair and Lease Scheme and Long Term Leasing so we will in time be delivering our social housing programme in the City and county.
There will be tough, challenging days ahead but there will also be good days. There will be days when we hand the keys to a new tenant, days when people can leave the label and stigma of homelessness behind and simply be in their homes, back at work, back in education or just safe in the knowledge that homelessness is their past, not their future.
At Peter McVerry Trust we will strive to deliver each and every day for those in need and offer hope and solutions to those in our care, we hope that the people of Galway will help us to deliver for the most vulnerable in this community.