Minister says homelessness ‘policies working’ as total nears 10,000

Eoghan Murphy says ‘incredibly deep’ housing crisis could not be solved in two years

‘The evidence is that the policies are working,’ Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said. Photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times.

‘The evidence is that the policies are working,’ Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said. Photograph: Tom Honan/ The Irish Times.

 

If the number of homeless people reaches 10,000, it will “not tell us anything more” than when the figure reached 9,000, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said.

July’s homelessness figures will be published by his department this week and may top 10,000 for the first time since records began.

Figures for June, published last month, showed there were 9,872 people in emergency accommodation including 6,048 adults and 3,824 children.

These children were in 1,754 families of which 62 per cent (1,081) were headed by single parents – the vast majority of them mothers.

During an interview on RTÉ Radio 1 on Tuesday, Mr Murphy was asked whether the forthcoming figures would breach the 10,000 threshold.

“My understanding is that the figures have gone up in one region that has given me reason to believe they will be up overall. Whether or not they hit 10,000 this month I can’t be certain now,” he said.

“What I have said before is that while the numbers obviously are too high, hitting 10,000 doesn’t tell us anything more than hitting 9,000 tells us – which is that we have a very serious crisis . . . Fundamentally it is a supply problem.”

He added: “The evidence is that the policies are working. The housing crisis is incredibly deep, it was never going to turn around in two years.”

Garda stations

Asked about the images of children sleeping on metal chairs in Tallaght Garda Station earlier this month because their mother, Margaret Cash, could not access emergency accommodation that night, Mr Murphy said the incident was a “mistake”.

“It’s not acceptable and it was very, very upsetting for a lot of people to see those images . . . We are absolutely determined as a State to make sure we are putting in place every support that we can to help families in distress, to help families when they enter emergency accommodation.”

On Ms Cash having to go to a garda station because emergency homeless services in Dublin could not access a hotel room or B&B space for the family, Mr Murphy said: “It didn’t need to happen, it shouldn’t have happened but it happened and that was a mistake.”

The incident was not an isolated event, however. In May last year The Irish Times first reported that families with children were being referred to garda stations, when on one night 12 families with 30 children could not access emergency beds in hotels or B&Bs by 9pm.

In April, the Focus Ireland Housing Action Team referred families on 46 occasions to garda stations and this increased to 47 in May.

‘Lack of urgency’

Labour spokeswoman on housing Jan O’Sullivan said Mr Murphy’s responses indicated a “lack of urgency”, while Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on housing, Darragh O’Brien, called for a new agency, similar to the National Transport Authority, to drive housing output.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “Eoghan Murphy stated that while homeless figures are going to rise, his policies to solve the housing crisis are working. I’m not sure what Minister Murphy counts as progress but homeless figures on the rise is not an example of his policies working.

“Every month the homeless figures are rising and the numbers of children homeless are rising, this is not a sign that Rebuilding Ireland is working,” she said.

“What we need to see now is a more urgent response from the State. The failure to roll out rapid build housing is an example that hasn’t been explained and would go some way as a short-term solution.”