Housing department denies record homelessness figures were "buried"

Figures showing nearly 7,000 people were homeless in Ireland were released the day before New Year's Eve

Housing department denies record homelessness figures were "buried"

A rough sleeper on College Green, 11-01-2017. Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Department of Housing has denied trying to bury worrying figures on the homelessness crisis during the holidays.

Homelessness figures for November were posted on the department website the day before New Year’s Eve.

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on housing Eoin Ó Broin has said figures are generally posted alongside a press release from the Housing Minister.

“We had been chasing these figures for two or three weeks because we thought they would come out at the end of the second week or the start of the third week in December,” said Deputy Ó Broin.

“It looks like those figures - which for two months in a row have been bad news - haven’t been given the same kind of media attention that the minister is giving to a lot of other positive news.”

The figures showed there were 6985 homeless people accessing emergency accommodation in Ireland in November - the highest ever on record.

Nationally there were 4,396 adults and 2,589 children homeless - meaning 1 in 3 people experiencing homelessness in Ireland is a child.

The total number of people homeless rose by 32% from Nov 2015 to Nov 2016.

The number of children has risen by 49% in the same period from a total of 1,709 in Nov 2015.

Speaking at a meeting of the Housing Committee this afternoon, the Secretary General of the Department of Housing, John McCarthy said there has been no attempt to hide the figures from the public.

“In terms of the timing of the release of homelessness statistics, we are certainly not in the business of choosing a particular time to put statistics out because we feel that in some way it will get buried by other news,” he said.

“That is not the business we are in.”

The Committee is meeting today to discuss the progress of the Government's housing strategy.

The Rebuilding Ireland plan’s five pillars include strategies to encourage the construction of more residential properties, to improve the rental market, and to reduce the number of homeless people.

Housing Committee chairperson, Maria Bailey said it has seen some success.

"We have seen that, thankfully, 2,700 individuals and families are now living in supported accommodation - social housing or in the private sector,” she said.

“They have exited homelessness."

"We need to continue that and provide for many more people, but at least that's a good start."

The department said the action plan aims to provide 47,000 new social houses over the next six years.