TheJournal.ie uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to find out more »
Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 18 November, 2017
Advertisement

Government's top housing adviser: 'Homelessness is a normal thing'

The chair of the Housing Agency said we need to move from a situation where we use words like “homeless’” and “crisis” continuously.

Conor Skehan,  chair of the Housing Agency.
Conor Skehan, chair of the Housing Agency.

“HOMELESSNESS IS A dreadful thing when it happens to someone, but it is a normal thing, it happens,” according to the chair of a major State housing body.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Conor Skehan said we need to move from a situation where we use words like “homeless’” and “crisis” continuously.

Skehan is the chair of the Housing Agency, the government body set up in 2010 to advise on policy for housing.

“The word ‘normal’ is the enemy of the word crisis, but once you normalise it you can start to give people challenges to ask are we dealing with this as effectively as we could do,” he said, adding:

When we start to realise we are the same as all the other countries in Europe we start to start to take the emotion out of this argument, because emotion is the enemy of this. Homelessness is something that reaches right into our entrails and upsets us and worries us and we are so easily manipulated when we are in that state and what the Taoiseach is doing is dead right…

Skehan previously said Ireland’s housing crisis is “completely normal”.

The discussion about homelessness in Ireland has been pushed back on the agenda, after TheJournal.ie asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about the rising homeless figures at the Fine Gael conference this weekend.

Rate of homelessness 

During the exchange (you can view the questions and answers here) on Saturday afternoon, the Taoiseach said:

“Obviously homelessness and the number of people in emergency accommodation has increased over the last number of years, but by international standards homelessness in Ireland is low but that is not good enough. We want to turn the tide on it.”

Homeless charities and those in the opposition have since come out to criticise the Taoiseach for his comments, and called on him to retract them and apologise.

Niamh Randall of the Simon Community disputes the Taoiseach’s claim.

Randall said the real challenge is “not comparing like with like”, highlighting that countries have inconsistent definitions for homelessness and therefore are measuring very different things.

Comparing like for like 

It excludes people who are rough sleeping, hidden homeless figures like people not living in state funded accommodation, those in direct provision, and those living in domestic violence shelters.

It excludes people who are rough sleeping, hidden homeless figures like people not living in state funded accommodation, those in direct provision, and those living in domestic violence shelters.

Randall highlighted this stating the reports on homelessness, such as from the OECD (which the Taoiseach based his remarks on) come with health warnings that the measure used in Ireland is more limited than in other countries, and international comparison is messy.

She said homelessness is about people – their lives, their homes and people planning for the future.

“I cannot imagine what it would be like to be trapped in emergency accommodation, in a hotel room with perhaps two of your children or stuck in a hostel in emergency accommodation and to hear these comments that were made over the weekend,” she said, adding that society can’t get caught up in the narrative of whether of “how we compare to others”.

“The problem around this is the narrative, where we are moving is the idea that the homeless crisis and the housing crisis is becoming more acceptable and that this is the price that we pay waiting for the  market to stabilise,” she said.

conor-skehan-1-390x285 Conor Skehan, chair of the Housing Agency. Source: DITenvironment

Skehan was happy to say this morning that Ireland has, categorically, a low rate of homelessness. However, he did concede that data is difficult to gather in a way that is internationally comparable.

“She [Randall] is spot on in what she is saying – but listen to what she is saying – there is a homelessness crisis in Germany, there is a homelessness crisis in France, there is a homelessness crisis in Sweden, there is a homeless crisis in Spain – it is the same everywhere. There is nothing that our government is doing that is wrong compared to all the other countries in Europe,” said Skehan.

Randall said it goes back to that fundamental question: “Are we an economy or are we a society?”

Skehan was also asked what is an acceptable level of homelessness?

“The man from Nazareth said, ‘the poor will always be with us’. There will never be a night when a set of loving parents [doesn't] show their heroin addicted son the door. There will never be a night when a woman hasn’t been hit for the last time by her abusive partner and finds herself out on the street with no plans. That day will never come,” he said.

‘Ireland’s housing crisis is completely normal’: Government’s top housing adviser>

Leo Varadkar: ‘Ireland has one of the lowest levels of homelessness’>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Read next:

COMMENTS (158)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

Leave a commentcancel

Trending Tags