Expert rejects claims of homelessness crisis

Claims that homelessness is at crisis point have been rejected by an expert in the field.

Eoin O’Sullivan of Trinity College Dublin, who has written extensively on the subject, said the target of caring for all homeless people by 2016 was achievable.

One step he said would help tackle the problem is better use of government money currently being spent by different State agencies. He said there was a perception that homelessness was an unmanageable crisis, but this was not the case.

Many claims about the level of homelessness, he said, were made around budget time by non-government organisations “trying to up the ante”.

A recent claim, that the figure of 150 people sleeping rough in Dublin was a historic high, was not correct, he said. “While it is still 150 people too many, exaggerating and saying it’s a historic high, negates the work that is being done.”

Fr Peter McVerry, who works with homeless young people in Dublin, has previously warned of a crisis of tsunami proportions.

Prof O’Sullivan, addressing a symposium in Limerick on social policy and homelessness, said: “I think there’s undoubtedly a housing issue, but whether that will translate into hundreds of thousands of people becoming homeless, I would be sceptical about that.

“I think there are pressures on the housing market, but there have been pressures before and it doesn’t always translate into huge numbers of homeless people.”

He said the target to end homelessness by 2016 is achievable. “Over the past 20 or 30 years, there have been a number of claims that homelessness was at a crisis level, or at an unprecedented level, and the evidence does not necessarily support that. I think the numbers of homeless people are, comparatively, relatively small and can be accommodated and it is a matter of working on that to accommodate those people.

“At the moment, there are about 2,500 people in emergency or transitional homeless accommodation. It is a matter of finding accommodation for 2,500 households, which isn’t an insurmountable task to do that.”

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