For more than four decades Peter McVerry has committed himself to the welfare of the homeless in Dublin.
Peter McVerry was born in Belfast in 1944 and grew up in Newry, where he attended a Christian Brothers Grammar School. He was then sent to boarding school at Clongowes Wood College in Kildare. It was while here that he first began to consider joining the Order, and so when he finished school in 1962 McVerry entered the Jesuit noviciate. He studied chemistry and mathematics at UCD, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1968. He then attended the Jesuit School of Theology in Milltown Park, after which as part of his training he taught at Belvedere College.
At the age of thirty McVerry volunteered to work with the poor in Summerhill on Dublin’s Northside. Here he lived in a tenement flat with two other Jesuits. The conditions in the area were appalling, with high levels of poverty and unemployment. For the first time he saw the problems and issues affecting a level of society he had to this point had little contact with. He quickly gained a reputation as a vocal critic of planners and politicians who failed to provide the services needed by these disadvantaged inner city communities.
In 1979 McVerry opened a hostel for homeless boys aged twelve to sixteen. He saw that for these children, once they were too old to stay at the hostel they had no other option but to live on the streets. The following year he moved out to Ballymun, where he continued his work; with the passing of the Childcare Act in 1991, he was better able to leverage the authorities into action. In 1983 McVerry founded The Arrupe Society, which would later become the McVerry Trust, a charity to tackle homelessness. This organisation began as a three bedroom flat in Ballymun, but has since grown to include eleven hostels for the homeless and a drug detox centre.
McVerry has published a book of writings, called The Meaning is in the Shadows, in which he describes his experiences with those forgotten by society and the systemic faults which allowed this. He remains heavily involved in the lives of the homeless in Dublin and continues his relentless mission both in caring for those in need and in calling into question the aspects of our society which have failed them.