'Categorisation error' stops homeless figures hitting 10,000 for first time

Official statistics show the number of homeless people dropped slightly last month.

The latest homelessness report from the Department of Housing shows 9,681 people were homeless.

There were 9,681 people without a home in March - 3,646 of those were children.

The number is 126 fewer than February's figures.

However the department has taken 600 people in social housing and receiving rent supplement out of the figures, blaming errors in the "reporting model."

"In the course of this work more recently in relation to the preparation of homeless figures for March, significant mis-categorisations have been discovered, which have overstated the total number of people that are in emergency accommodation in the State today," said Minister Murphy.

"A number of local authorities have erroneously categorised individuals and families living in local authority owned or leased housing stock, including in some instances people renting in the private sector but in receipt of social housing supports, as being in emergency accommodation.

To date at least 600 individuals have been identified as having been categorised as homeless and in emergency accommodation when they are not.

"Some but not all of these individuals have been removed from the total numbers, but work continues with Local Authorities to gauge the total extent of the issue."

If the reclassification had not taken place, the numbers in emergency accommodation would have passed 10,000 for the first time.

Fianna Fáil says the Housing Minister cannot brush figures on homelessness under the carpet.

"The Government cannot bury its head in the sand over this crisis and cannot be allowed to hide the figures," said the party's Housing Spokesperson, Darragh O’Brien.

"Should Ireland ever get to grips with the crisis, transparency and full accountability are imperative."

Anthony Flynn from Inner City Helping Homeless says local authorities are being blamed for causing confusion.

What we're seeing now is a whole grouping of people haven't been included in the figures on the previous month, which indicates that there is a lower amount of people in homeless service.

"The Minister is blaming the council, people are blaming the Minister," he said.

"The Minister needs to come up and needs to be out straight with how many people we actually have in homeless services and an independent review and audit of homeless services is required immediately."

Flynn says the Housing Minister is not doing his job.

"Last week alone we saw three families that had to enter a garda station because there was no accommodation available for those families over that period," he said.

"The system is out of control, it's absolutely ridiculous.

The Minister's not doing the job that he needs to do. If the Minister can't do his job he needs to get out of his office and let someone else in to do that.

Children's charity Barnardos has launched a petition calling on the Government to ensure that no child spend more than six months in emergency accommodation.

"We welcome any decrease in child homelessness and hope this is the start of an ongoing trend," said June Tinsley, head of advocacy with Barnardos.

But, the Minister’s latest comments regarding issues with how these statistics are calculated, cast doubt on the reliability of these numbers.

"Regardless 3,646 children is still 3,646 too many - every number represents a childhood lost.

"Every single one of these children is experiencing the trauma of homelessness. Every aspect of their life, their growth and their development is being negatively impacted.

"The longer they experience the uncertainty of homelessness, the more damage is being done."

Read the Homeless Report for March 2018 here:

Digital Desk

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