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'Shameful', 'shocking': Campaigners 'lose confidence' in government after latest homeless figures

A further 222 families went into emergency accomodation in the past month.

homeless february

Updated 10.47pm

AN EXTRA 488 children became homeless in Ireland last month, with the total number of families in emergency accomodation now over 1,700.

The government had published its latest report for February, with the figure for homeless adults at 6,052 and the number of homeless children at 3,755, meaning just shy of 10,000 people are now homeless in Ireland.

Critics lined up to attack the government’s record on homeless following the publication of figures, with one charity planning a protest tomorrow morning outside Leinster House.

The number of homeless adults was down 84 in February compared to January, but the number of families in emergency accomodation increased by 222 in the same period.

In July 2014, the first time there were properly available records, there were 344 families with 749 children staying in state-funded emergency accommodation in Ireland.

In February 2018 – less than four years later – there were 1,739 families with 3,755 children – meaning the number of homeless children has more than quintupled in this time.

emergency accomodation feb 2018 Source: Department of Housing

In a statement, Minister Eoghan Murphy admitted the figures appeared to indicate a “very worrying trend since the beginning of the year in relation to the number of families presenting to our homeless services”.

He said he had asked the Dublin Region Homeless Executive for a report on the new issues that had arisen in the course of their outreach work, and this report should be completed in April.

Similarly, a report from the new inter-agency group on better coordination for government resources is expected in April.

Murphy also said that the number of people sleeping rough appears to be significantly down on recent years based on “recent indicators”.

He added that supply of housing was a priority the government was working towards as “we know that we are going to continue to face a serious challenge with people presenting to our homeless services until significantly more homes are built”.

Reaction

Reacting to the figures, Sister Kennedy and Father McVerry said: “Despite all the promises to address homelessness made by the Government in its Action Plan, Rebuilding Ireland, the number of people having to live in hostels, hotels, B&Bs and family hubs has risen by almost 2,000 in the twenty months since July 2016, when the plan was published with such fanfare.”

McVerry went on: “When the Taoiseach was asked just before Christmas when could we see the number of people in homelessness going down, he said he was unable to answer that question.

A deeply flawed strategy, such as that outlined in Rebuilding Ireland, and a stack of press statements aimed primarily at presenting a positive picture of developments are no substitute for the coherent, joined-up strategy which is required to address the housing and homelessness crisis we are facing.

Focus Ireland CEO Pat Dennigan, meanwhile, described the increase as “shocking” and “unacceptable”.

He said: “These figures clearly show that the government Rebuilding Ireland strategy is failing to get to grips with the crisis.”

Inner City Helping Homeless said simply that “this isn’t good enough and can’t be allowed to go on anymore”.

16/1/2018 Cabinet Meetings ICHH has organised a #MyNameIs protest for outside the Dáil tomorrow morning. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

It has organised a protest outside Leinster House from 7.30am tomorrow morning, calling for a national emergency to be declared.

Political attack

Opposition parties also rounded on the government over the figures.

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said that Minister Murphy’s position is becoming “untenable”.

He said: “The February homeless figures released today confirm that homelessness and in particular child and family homelessness is spiralling out of control.

Contrary to the claims made by the government in January that the rate of homelessness was slowing down, the figures for January and February show that it is in fact accelerating at dramatic pace.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy said that the Minister’s assurances on tackling homelessness “ring hollow when we see such a sharp and distressing increase in the number of children growing up in hotels”.

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen, meanwhile, said the government needs to offer an “immediate explanation for this continued rise”.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald.

Read: ‘Isn’t there something awful about society, that so many people are praying for a house?’

Read: New Young Fine Gael chairman says his ‘coathanger abortion’ comment was ‘atrocious’

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Sean Murray

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