Charity group plea to use Irish Water refund to help homeless

The public is being asked to redirect their Irish Water refund towards the homeless crisis.

Kieran Mulvey

Focus Ireland, the Simon Community and the Peter McVerry Trust have all joined forces to ask people who are about to get their repayment and can afford to do so, to donate it to the Refund Project.

The Refund Project was set up by the three charities and is chaired by Kieran Mulvey the former head of Workplace Relations Commission.

It has no overheads, no administrative costs, is not party-political and all monies raised go directly towards building permanent homes.

“The ask is a very simple, we are simply asking people who can afford to, to consider sending their Irish Water refund in the direction of the homeless charities,” said Mr Mulvey.

Mr Mulvey said the homeless crisis is the biggest challenge facing Ireland right now — even ahead of Brexit.

“I think over the last decade we have had a very difficult issue in Ireland around the recession, emigration, unemployment and the fall in public finances, but the greatest effect this has had is upon Irish people themselves who have been rendered homeless by what has happened over the last number of years. It has got to such a stage that I believe that this is the greatest crisis facing this country at the moment.

“I appreciate there are other issues regarding Brexit and the European Union and the future of Ireland around other issues, but this is purely domestic, purely relates to our own citizens and those who have come to our country to find employment,” he said.

There are now more than 8,000 people homeless in Ireland, 3,184 of whom are children.

Mr Mulvey said those children are the children of Ireland and unless we “arrest” the issue, their experience will leave a lasting psychological mark on them.

“It is incumbent upon us as a country now to arrest this problem by the scruff of the neck and deal with it as a national crisis and a national emergency and devote all our energies, public and private, to its resolution,” said Mr Mulvey.

He urged people to give even a small amount of the unexpected refund if they could afford it, as it would leave a “marvellous legacy” after all the “appaling mistakes” that have been made.

A total of €173m will be returned to 1m people from Irish Water before Christmas via a crossed-cheque in the post.

Mr Mulvey described homelessness as an “appaling spectre” that we must not accept.

“There is no argument rational or otherwise as to why we should accept homelessness. We can resolve this problem. We have the land, the material, the skills — why don’t we just do it?” he said.

Focus Ireland CEO, Ashley Balbirnie, said the call to action was not a guilt-trip.

“This is obviously geared at that number of people who are looking at this as a pleasant surprise, maybe who weren’t expecting, who are lucky enough to have options in life in that they don’t have to grab it and spend it straight away. So no guilt-trip whatsoever, no obligation on people. We just want to offer the opportunity for those this suits,” said Mr Balbirnie.

He added that the public can “switch off” from the issue because they just see numbers and lose sight of the people behind them.

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