Focus Ireland question 'how much we can trust' official homelessness figures

Focus Ireland question 'how much we can trust' official homelessness figures

Focus Ireland is questioning the validity of the latest homeless figures.

The charity said it is because of the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy's decision to re-classify some homeless families from official numbers.

The Government's latest figures show the number of homeless people has dropped, but the figure remains above 10,000 for the fifth month in a row.

The national homeless figures for June show that 6,497 adults and 3,675 children are in emergency accommodation.

This is a drop of 81 people from the total of 10,253 people who were homeless in May this year.

There are currently 1,686 families living in emergency accommodation.

Focus Ireland's Roughan McNamara said excluding some homeless families from official stats raises questions over how much the figures can be trusted:

Mr McNamara said: "They have actually just been moved from one form of homeless classification to another as far as they are concerned, and yet they are not being counted in the official figures.

"So while the numbers are small, it does lead in to the dispute about how much we can trust figures in that case."

The Housing Minister said there is still “a lot more work to do”.

Yesterday, the homeless charity has called for the Government to urgently review its policies to tackle the homelessness crisis.

They welcomed the news that the figure has dropped slightly, saying it means fewer families, children and individuals are “suffering the trauma” of being homeless.

It added, however, that the overall trend is up as there has been a 28% rise in the number of homeless in the last two years from 7,941 in June 2017 to 10,172 last month.

The new figures issued by the Department of Housing reveal that 3,675 of the total number of homeless are children – in 1,686 families – while Focus Ireland said its own figures show that one child became homeless every four hours last month in Dublin.

The Focus Ireland figures show 73 families with 163 children became newly homeless in Dublin in June.

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said: “Policies such as rapid rehousing, Homeless HAP, linkages to local communities and the availability of child support workers have all worked well in Dublin.

“Reviewing these policies and applying them outside Dublin will not only help hundreds of families, it will avoid wasteful use of resources.

“The commentary on Rebuilding Ireland concentrates exclusively on the things that have failed, but there are positive lessons to learn too.

“A review should look at both the successes and the things that need to change. Focus Ireland firmly believes that this balanced approach would allow the Government to take the decisions it has shied away from for several years.

“This includes actively building social housing, taxing those who hoard building land and better protecting the rights of tenants facing eviction.

“We also need the Government to set a cast-iron deadline that no family or individuals should be homeless for longer than six months and to put a specific family homelessness strategy in place to deal more effectively with this deepening crisis.”

He added: “There is real danger that human stories get lost behind the numbers – especially during the summer months when the politicians are on holidays and people are enjoying the good weather.”

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin O Broin TD said the dip in numbers is welcome.

“However, it is still 10,172 people too many living in hotels, B&Bs and family hubs,” he added.

“This is the fifth month in a row that the total number of people officially classified as homeless by the Department of Housing has been over 10,000.

“This shows once again that the Government’s response to the homeless crisis is failing.

“We support Focus Ireland’s call for the Government to urgently review its policies aimed at tackling the homelessness crisis.”

- Press Association

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