The head of a global homelessness charity says it is possible to end homelessness – with political support, preventative measures and a realistic target in place.
Mark McGreevy OBE, Chief Group Executive of Depaul International, made the comments at the first Trinity Talk at Leeds Trinity University on Wednesday 1 February.
He believes that with a shared sense of purpose and by working together, it is possible. He said:
“Countries and cities have already ended homelessness, and I truly believe that it is possible around the globe. I’ve worked to support homeless people for 27 years, and experience has taught me that with good leadership, political consensus, preventative policies and appropriate models – alongside the ability to adapt and change where necessary, it is possible to end homelessness.”
Currently based in Chicago, USA, Mr McGreevy works with the Institute of Global Homelessness and Depaul International which coordinates the activities of Depaul charities in the UK, Ireland, Slovakia, Ukraine, France and the USA. The group employs 600 people and helps more than 20,000 homeless and disadvantaged people all around the world.
During his lecture, Mr McGreevy reflected on his career in supporting homeless people since 1990. He recalled early lessons about what did and didn’t work:
“Very early on, I learnt that one agency can’t do it all. Supporting homeless people and providing a lasting legacy to end homelessness has to be a partnership with others, it must have buy-in from local and central government policy, and you need to be able to provide more than just shelter.”
He provided anecdotes from his work in Leeds in the late 1980s, when the Leeds Nightstop service was first established, and how the Rough Sleepers Unit headed by Dame Louise Casey CBE DB in 1997 reduced street homelessness in the UK by two-thirds over a three year period.
“By working together and creating a more assertive outreach – where the Police and medical professionals shared data with local councils and charities, funding was provided for rough sleepers in hostels, and preventative programmes were established in prisons, for military personnel and care leavers – number declined, and maintained until 2010, when unfortunately, recession hit and numbers in the UK began to rise again,” Mr McGreevy added.
Currently, it is thought that 1.2 million people, of the 7 billion on this planet, are currently classed as homeless; either without accommodation and therefore sleeping on the streets or in public spaces, in temporary or crisis accommodation, or living in severely inadequate and insecure premises. Now working with the Institute of Global Homelessness, Mr McGreevy and his team are working with key global strategic partners to eradicate street homelessness in 150 cities around the world, by 2030.
Mr McGreevy, an alumnus and former Governor at Leeds Trinity University, spoke as part of ‘Trinity Talks’; a high-profile lecture series for the institution’s 50th Anniversary year.
Professor Margaret A House, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University, said:
“Mark has had a fantastic career, dedicating his life and work to helping the lives of others. His talk was thought-provoking and inspirational, and I am delighted that so many voluntary organisations, partners and friends of the University could join us for his talk.
“We were particularly pleased to welcome local charities Simon on the Streets and Emmaus Leeds who showcased some of their work at our event.”
More than 150 members of the local community, staff, students and alumni attended the institution’s first Trinity Talk. To find out more about the lecture series, click here. To view photographs from the event, visit our event page.
To find out more about Mr McGreevy’s work with the Institute of Global Homelessness and Depaul International, visit www.int.depaulcharity.org.