On 21 September 2020, Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) hosted a virtual launch of its Annual Report for 2019. MLRC was delighted to be joined by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, who formally launched the report. We were also joined by over eighty attendees, both supporters of the work of MLRC and a range of colleagues from organisations working within the field of housing and homelessness.
The launch was opened by the Chair of MLRC, Helena O’Donoghue RSM, who warmly welcomed the Minister and attendees and thanked the supporters of MLRC for their generous funding and interest in the work of the centre. Helena then reflected on the impact of MLRC’s work over the past year and highlighted the difficulties faced by people experiencing homelessness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rebecca Keatinge, MLRC Managing Solicitor, then provided an overview of the services offered by MLRC, as well as presenting the main legal issues which were at the crux of casework and informed the policy work of MLRC over the course of the previous year. Rebecca highlighted the impact of MLRC during the course of 2019, noting that the centre provided free legal advice and representation to 1,611 individuals and families including 482 homeless families. Rebecca demonstrated the impact of MLRC’s work by sharing the experiences of MLRC clients Rachel and Blessing – and drew attention to a testimonial by a client, who said of MLRC, ‘they do not treat you like an outsider but like a human being’. This sentiment echoes the ethos of MLRC, and the organisation’s overall approach to treat all people with dignity and respect.
Minister Darragh O’Brien TD then formally launched the report. The Minister expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to discuss MLRC’s Annual Report and shared his own positive experiences of working alongside MLRC. Minister O’Brien said that his engagements with MLRC are ‘always constructive, always useful’ and said that he welcomes engagement with his Department on key concerns in relation to homelessness. Minister O’Brien discussed the key policy issues his office intends to focus on during the lifetime of the government, including liaising with the Department of Health to extend protections to homeless persons throughout the pandemic as well as delivering 50,000 units of social housing and tackling lengthy transfer waiting lists.
MLRC Board Member and Professor of Law, Gerry Whyte, closed the event thanking the Minister for joining MLRC and formally launching the report. Professor Whyte then shared some reflections on the work of MLRC not just this past year, but since its inception in 2009. He identified the progressive impact that a constitutional right to housing could prompt. He also highlighted the rise of family homelessness and emphasised that MLRC aims to put a human face to the current housing crisis.
MLRC welcomed the comments of Minister O’Brien, in particular his commitment to implementing the recommendations outlined in the two Oireachtas committee reports published in November 2019. The Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government report entitled Family and Child Homelessness, made a number of recommendations on family homelessness. MLRC’s submissions and presentation to that Committee were wholly endorsed in the report and we continue to advocate on implementation of those recommendations. MLRC is looking forward to engaging with the Minister particularly on the issues affecting homeless families and also progressing the constitutional reform on the right to housing.
Our 2019 Annual Report is now published and available to view online. Be sure to check out the full report to see the impact of MLRC’s work in 2019.