The Peter McVerry Trust helped shelter hundreds of long-term homeless at an emergency shelter in a south Dublin sports hall and at thirteen other emergency placements over the recent big freeze where temperatures dipped to minus 5 degrees Celsius. This emergency response to the extreme weather event represented the largest single mobilisation of emergency beds in the 35-year history of the Trust.
Despite round the clock efforts by the staff, there were still a number of homeless who refused accommodation. For instance, 30 people declined to come into an emergency shelter on Wednesday 28 February for several reasons. Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, explained the difficulty of persuading rough sleepers to come indoors. “Some of these people have been sleeping rough for a very long time, so it’s partly habit,” he said. They may also be reluctant to sleep inside in the company of others due to “mental health, addiction, trust” and other issues. Moreover, Francis Doherty from the Trust said that they may have had negative experiences in hostels.
The staff did their best to engage and support these people by ensuring they had enough supplies like extreme weather sleeping bags and sleeping mats. They used social media to encourage the public to contact them if they saw any homeless on the streets. They also updated the public on their website with regard to their outreach work. On 2 March, they reported: “A total of 25 extreme cold weather placements have been provided in Kildare, with 11 additional places being secured on Thursday. These cases were individuals who contacted the Kildare County Council/Peter McVerry Trust Freephone and people who were spotted by members of the public and were then engaged by Peter McVerry Trust staff”.
As of January 2018, there were officially 9,104 people homeless in Ireland, an increase of 517 people on December 2017. The Trust is always open for members of the public to get involved in the fight against homelessness.