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FactCheck: Exactly how many people are homeless in Ireland?

TheJournal.ie’s GE16 FactCheck tests a few different claims made about one of the election’s biggest issues.

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AS PART OF our GE16 FactCheck series, we’re testing the truth of claims made by candidates and parties on the campaign trail.

If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, or see a claim that looks great, but you want to confirm it, email factcheck@thejournal.ie.

We’ve had several separate requests to check claims about homelessness, and caught a few ourselves, so let’s let examine the numbers behind the human beings affected by this major election issue.

CLAIM: The number of rough sleepers in Dublin is down 46% since last year – Anne Ferris & Simon Coveney
Verdict: TRUE

What was said:

Rosemarie Walsh in Co Wicklow forwarded us an email she received from Labour TD Anne Ferris, in which the Deputy stated:

The numbers sleeping rough in Dublin at the end of November 2015 had fallen by 46% since the year previous.

Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney repeated the claim during TV3′s The People’s Debate on Tuesday night, so let’s take a look.

The facts

homeless Source: Dept of Environment

The claim itself comes from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, which does a head count of rough sleepers – homeless people not in emergency accommodation – every April and November.

Last time round, they counted 91 people sleeping rough, a decrease of 77 (or 45.83%) from November 2014.

So the claim is true.

However, this is likely to be one of the few facts used by candidates from the government parties when discussing homelessness in this campaign.

By every other measure, homelessness has become worse throughout the country since last year.

The Department of the Environment’s official figures show an increase in numbers in emergency accommodation, across Ireland and across every measured category.

That includes a 93% rise in the number of homeless families – from 401 in January to 775 in December – and an 87% increase in the number of homeless children, from 865 to 1,616.

In all, there were 5,241 people in emergency accommodation in December – 3,915 in Dublin, and 1,326 throughout the rest of the country.

emergaccomdubireland Source: Dept of Environment

Of those, 3,625 were adults and 1,616 were children.

emergaccomadultschildren Source: Dept of Environment

CLAIM: 70 families a month are becoming homeless – Micheál Martin
Verdict: Almost entirely TRUE

What was said: 

In 2012 there was about eight families going homeless per month. In 2014 that rose to 40 families per month, and in 2015 it rose to over 70 per month.

The facts

90369778 Source: RollingNews.ie

The figures presented by the Fianna Fáil leader during Thursday night’s debate come from studies done by Focus Ireland, and relate only to Dublin, so the figure for Ireland is higher, but unknown.

In a 2014 briefing paper sent to all Oireachtas members, the charity wrote about its Homeless Action Team (HAT) in the capital and stated:

When established in 2012, the Focus Ireland ‘new presenters’ team was resourced to respond to around 8 families a month presenting as homeless…

On its website, the charity gives the figures for the following years:

In 2013 a total of 20 families were becoming homeless every month in the capital city – last year this more than doubled to over 40 families becoming homeless every month.

And in their pre-budget submission last autumn, Focus Ireland stated that the figure had risen to 67. Not quite “over 70″, as claimed by Martin, but not far off.

Focus Ireland warned in our Pre-Budget Submission in 2012 that many families and single people were at a tipping point between home and homelessness.
We warned there would be a crisis of family homelessness unless action was taken. At this time 8 families a month were becoming homeless in Dublin.
This has now rocketed, with an average of 67 families becoming homeless in Dublin alone every month this year.

Send your FactCheck requests to factcheck@thejournal.ie

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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