Homeless crisis: Murphy defends family hubs as better than hotels

Critical report should be ‘seared into brain of every policy influencer’, says Fianna Fáil TD

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: ‘These facilities are not intended to be seen as a housing solution.’ Photograph: Tom Honan

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: ‘These facilities are not intended to be seen as a housing solution.’ Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has defended the use of family hubs for homeless people, saying they are more suitable than placing people in hotels.

He said the hubs were “not intended to be seen as a housing solution” and that more were being developed this year.

The Minister faced trenchant criticism as he opened a Dáil debate on Thursday on youth homelessness following the publication of the No Place Like Home report by the office of the Ombudsman for Children.

The report consulted children in family hubs who reported being ashamed, afraid, lonely and angry in the facilities – which each house multiple families, who are provided cooking and laundry facilities on site.

Fianna Fáil TD Pat Casey said the contents of the report “should be seared into the brain of every policy influencer in Ireland”. He said it was a “living historical record of the shameful failure of the Government’s response to family homelessness”.

He said children should not feel ashamed about where they live but everyone in the Dáil and “every Minister should feel ashamed and embarrassed. If Government policies are not working, they need to be changed or dumped immediately.”

Labour housing spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said the Minister needed to have an emergency meeting of the homeless inter-agency group he had established to address the issues “these children have expressed so graphically”.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said a hub was an unnatural environment for children and while in the past there were “mother-and-baby homes, now there are hubs, bed-and-breakfast accommodation and hotels where children live”.

‘Particularly disturbing’

Mr Murphy said the situation of children in emergency accommodation was “particularly disturbing” and that he would talk to local authorities and those who operate family hubs including the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland and the Salvation Army.

The Minister said their responses “will guide the further measures that must be taken”.

He would take the report’s recommendations “on board” and stressed that his department was already moving on some of its priorities, including instructing local authorities nationally about its “quality standards framework”, which “recognises the rights of children and provides that children are consulted regarding their needs”.

The Minister said “family hubs have been shown to not only provide a more suitable environment for families experiencing homelessness, but also have been proven to allow families to exit emergency accommodation far more quickly than would be the case if they were staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast”.

Mr Murphy added: “While these facilities provide more security and stability for homeless families than is possible in hotel accommodation, it is important to note that these facilities are not intended to be seen as a housing solution.”