Varadkar admits increase in number of homeless families is 'extremely disturbing'

Campaigners have criticised the Government's approach as numbers in emergency accommodation continue to rise

Varadkar admits increase in number of homeless families is 'extremely disturbing'

Photo: Sam Boal/

Leo Varadkar has admitted the continuing increases in the number of homeless families is 'extremely disturbing'.

Yesterday, the Department of Housing revealed there were 1,739 families living in emergency accommodation in February - a rise of 222 compared to January.

It prompted a fresh round of criticism of the Government's approach to the issue - with prominent homelessness campaigners Sr Stanislaus Kennedy and Fr Peter McVerry saying they have lost all confidence "in either the ability or commitment of the Government to solve the housing and homelessness crisis".

Addressing members of the Oireachtas Finance Committee today, Leo Varadkar said the Government is not seeing the progress they'd like to see.

He told committee members: "If commitment is down to the amount of work you're doing, the amount of money you're spending... I don't think anyone can doubt the level of Government commitment to this issue.

"What we're not seeing is the kind of results that we'd like to see, and that is unbelievably frustrating - of course most of all for people who are affected by homelessness, but also for those who are trying to solve this problem and trying to assist people who are in homelessness."

Commenting on the latest figures, he suggested that the number of rough sleepers had declined - but then acknowledged the increasing numbers elsewhere. 

He stated: "[There's] a very big increase and a very disturbing increase in the number of families who are in emergency accommodation - certainly more becoming homeless every month than we can get out of homelessness.

"That's extremely disturbing, and very frustrating that we haven't seen sufficient progress to date - but it's certainly not down to lack of prioritisation, lack of funding, lack of effort or lack of commitment from Government."

He said officials will have to 'drill down into that' to understand why the policies introduced so far haven't produced the desired results.