Homeless figures were added up incorrectly

Internal correspondence shows confusion over the categorising of people living in emergency accommodation in five areas, and how in some cases incorrect tallies of homeless people were down to miscalculations and omissions.

The emails, provided by the Department of Housing in response to a Freedom of Information request, follows the revelation earlier this year that the monthly tallies used to calculate the number of homeless people may have been overestimated.

The most recently published figures showed a record number of 9,846 people in emergency accommodation in May.

Correspondence regarding the figures for the South-West region for March showed Cork City Council director of housing, Brian Geaney, and Moira Murrell, chief executive of Kerry County Council, were not satisfied all of the correct data had been submitted.

An official from Cork City Council’s housing and community section wrote on April 27 to apologise about the “mix-up” regarding the totals which appeared to be a simple miscalculation, with an overall figure of 411 adults provided even though the actual figure was 402, made up of 307 people in Cork City, 12 in Cork County, and 83 in Kerry.

The figures said there were also 91 families with 176 dependents in emergency accommodation. In an email sent by Martin O’Donoghue, the director of corporate services and housing in Kerry, three days later to the department, he wrote that “the most recent return made by Cork appears to have a mathematical error in it and doesn’t appear to have included any figures at all for dependents in Kerry.

“Cork City are checking this as we speak but clearly any publication without these will understate the problem and result if a further and more serious problem next month.”

The corrected figure for the region, lodged on May 3, concluded that the total number of homeless adults was still 402, but with 91 families and 214 dependent children.

The issues involved recategorisation, with accommodation (typically belonging to a local authority) paid for by Section 10 funding not counted in the overall homeless tally.

A revised figure for the South-East region for March was reduced in such a way, with an administrative officer stating “this excludes 12 adults and 24 children who are currently in temporary homeless emergency accommodation provided by Waterford City and County Council”.

Similarly, in Louth, the number of unique adults, families, and dependents was reduced due to “Louth County Council sourcing private rented properties”.

In an email to the department in late April, the co-ordinator of homeless services in Limerick wrote to “confirm that 30 families, comprising of 41 adults and 61 children, have exited homelessness and had been placed in 30 apartments purchased in a unit at Childers Road”, referring to a Focus Ireland facility.

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said: “The Childers Road Hub has units which have their own front doors like in an apartment block. It was a long-stay apartment facility linked to a hotel. The families did not ‘exit homelessness’, they didn’t move at all, and their legal status has not changed.

“Control over your own home space is an aspect of homelessness, but I have never known it presented as a defining factor — and nor have any of the international experts I have discussed it with.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive gave a revised March figure, which an official said “takes account of the tenancies being created for Windsor residents” now in private rented accommodation. The change in the number of dependents between March and February is noted as plus 21, even though it was actually a reduction of 21.

Mr Allen said the figures showed “more evidence to support the view that the collating of this data should go to the CSO and be taken more seriously rather than downgraded to a quarterly exercise.

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