Increasing homelessness ‘shameful’ – archbishop

The level of homelessness in Dublin is “shameful” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said.

The archbishop also described the level of uncertainty regarding accommodation for homeless people, especially families, as “worrying”.

Dr Martin was speaking in Dublin today during the launch of a report by Crosscare on advocacy services provided by the Church agency for people experiencing homelessness.

The archbishop praised Crosscare’s work during the event at a drop-in centre in Dublin city Centre. He warned that people experiencing homelessness “find themselves not just on the margins of society, but effectively marginalised in society.”

His comments come as fears have been raised about the level of homelessness being experienced by families and individuals all across Ireland.

Crosscare explained that last year some 5,000 people came to the centre for help and, on average, 80-100 people visit their drop-in centre every day.

Referring to these figures, Dr Martin underlined the importance of advocacy serviced. “People living in poverty are not often good at presenting their story well and very often end up not just getting funds they need to access, but indeed not even getting what are their basic rights.”

The archbishop, who has been critical of Government policy on many controversial issues, praised Crosscare for empowering people experiencing homelessness. He praised Crosscare for the ‘distance’ between the client and the agency’s worker and the fact that they treat their clients with respect and focus more on the person than the paperwork.

Referring to Pope Francis, Dr Martin said that to assist the marginalised, one must look first to the person, not the problem they are experiencing. Highlighting the Pope’s approach to a man in St Peter’s Square suffering from a disfiguring illness, he said that “Pope Francis did not engage the man from a careful distance about what disease he had and how long he had had it: he simply kissed him”.

He said that as a religious organisation, God is at the core of what Crosscare do and there is no greater advocate for the poor than God.

Crosscare is composed of three projects: housing and welfare information, the migrant project and the refugee project. They work with lawyers and social workers to help those in poverty understand and access their basic rights.