Fr McVerry grew up in Newry, Co. Down and was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School in Newry and at the Jesuit school at Clongowes Wood College in Co. Kildare.
In 1962, he entered the Jesuit Order and was ordained in 1975. Peter has worked in Dublin’s north inner city since 1974, where he came into contact with young people who were sleeping on the streets because of their home situation.
In 1979 he opened a hostel for homeless boys aged 12-16, this subsequently became his life-time work. He saw through the work of this hostel that when the boys reached 16 and needed to leave, they had few options open to them and most ended up back living on the streets. This realisation led him to set about providing services and accommodation for older youths.
In 1980 Peter moved to Ballymun in north Dublin, and by the end of 1983 he had founded the Arrupe Society, a charity to tackle homelessness. This charity, which was subsequently renamed the Peter McVerry Trust, has progressed from a three-bedroom flat in Ballymun to becoming one of the country’s largest organisations responding to the issue of homelessness. In 2020, the charity supported 7,800 individuals experiencing homelessness.
As a social activist, Peter is a strong advocate for those who have no voice in society. He has written widely on issues relating to young homeless people such as accommodation, drugs, juvenile justice, the Gardaí, prisons and education.
He has a regular article in the monthly Redemptorist magazine, Reality, and speaks on issues of homelessness, justice and faith to groups around the country. He is a critic of government policy on issues such as homelessness, drugs and criminal justice.