April 16, 2014 — The city council of Dublin, Ireland, honored Irish Jesuit Father Peter McVerry with its Freedom of Dublin award for his work with the homeless over the past 40 years. Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, nominated Fr. McVerry for the honor, whose previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, John F. Kennedy and U2.
“I am delighted they have agreed to accept this great honor. They set a remarkable example to us all by the way they apply themselves to their challenges,” Mayor Quinn said of the award recipients, Fr. McVerry and rugby star Brian O’Driscoll. “They are people who lead by the example they set. In their own way and in their own fields, they are both individuals who walk the walk.”
Fr. McVerry set up the Peter McVerry Trust in Dublin to reduce homelessness and combat social disadvantage and drug abuse. The Trust provides an informal drop-in center, often the first point of contact for many young homeless people, as well as temporary accommodation and drug treatment facilities. Other services offer resources and housing for homeless children aged 12-18 and individuals battling mental health issues. The McVerry Trust provides housing and drug treatment for about 175 homeless people on any given night.
According to Fr. McVerry, there are a lot of “newly homeless” seeking help due to struggles resulting from the current state of the Irish economy, in addition to the many homeless the McVerry Trust helps on account of addiction problems and dysfunctional family life.
“The majority of people now who are becoming homeless are ordinary working class, even middle class, people who can no longer afford to pay the rents,” he said. “Most of them can only secure emergency accommodation, which means that they don’t know from one day to the next where they could be staying when night falls. Some of them come down here just to eat; others come just for the company — the warmth.”Having “a place to call home is a fundamental human right,” Fr. McVerry added. [Sources: Catholic Ireland, Vatican Radio]