Minister to be questioned over ‘reclassification’ of homeless figures

Eoghan Murphy set for appearance before Oireachtas group after testy Dáil exchanges

The number of adults classified as homeless fell from 6,052 in February to 6,035 in March. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The number of adults classified as homeless fell from 6,052 in February to 6,035 in March. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will be called before an Oireachtas committee to explain a proposal to remove another 200 people from the monthly homelessness figures.

It follows robust exchanges in the Dáil on Tuesday over the removal of 578 people from the March figures. While Mr Murphy said the adults and children were in “homes”, Opposition TDs said they were in temporary accommodation and not in secure tenancies.

This amounted to a “reclassification” of homelessness by the Minister, they said. And it constituted an attempt to “massage the figures down, for political purposes”.

The committee met in private session for almost an hour on Wednesday morning during which the reclassification row was discussed.

It was agreed the Minister would be asked to appear, along with housing officials from local authorities that had been asked to remove families they regarded as homeless from their March homelessness figures. Officials from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive will also be asked to attend. The local authorities include Meath and Louth county councils.

The March homeless figures fell from 9,807 in February, to 9,681. The number of adults classified as homeless fell from 6,052 in February to 6,035 in March, and the number of children from 3,755 to 3,646 in March

“There is a concern now the Minister intends extending this reclassification to remove another 200 individuals in south Co Dublin from the official figures, at Tallaght Cross,” said Mr Ó Bróin. South Dublin County Council leases 65 apartments at a Nama-controlled complex at Tallaght Cross, in which homeless families are accommodated while seeking permanent accommodation.

Mr Ó Bróin also called for the inclusion of homeless people accommodated in the Regina Coeli and Morning Star hostels in Dublin, run by the Legion of Mary, in the monthly figures.

Sr Eileen Ryan, manager of the Regina Coeli hostel for women, said all of its 40 rooms were full every night, while “over 60” in the men’s Morning Star hostel were also full.

These hostels receive no State funding, she added. And so their residents were not reported in the monthly figures.

‘Miscategorised’

A spokesman for the department said: “A total of 247 adults and 331 associated dependants, residing in houses and apartments, were categorised as being in emergency accommodation in the Dublin, southwest, midwest, northeast and southeast regions. These categorisations were corrected prior to the publication of the March report.

“There may be as many as 200 more cases of miscategorised individuals – so a total in the region of 600 to 800. The department is working with the local authorities to establish a final figure.”

Separately, Donal McManus, chief executive of the Irish Council for Social Housing, called on the State to stop “hoarding” land that could be used for housing.

Speaking at the publication of the council’s 2017 housing activity report, he said: “State sites need to come on stream as quickly as possible as part of a defined pipeline for new social housing. Failure to is a type of land hoarding.”

Housing associations have been tasked by Government to deliver 15,000 social homes between 2016 and 2020. They own and manage 33,000. Last year some 2,330 homes were delivered by housing associations.