However – charity warns overall trend shows 37% rise family homelessness in last year and claims the Govt strategy is failing to tackle the issue despite some good news

New Government figures issued today show a 1% drop in the number of families homeless in Ireland.  Focus Ireland said this achievement is a direct result of the good work of organisations such as Focus Ireland in partnership with the State to prevent homelessness and support families into new homes.

Focus Ireland said that new Government figures issued today, which showed 9,681 men,  women and children homeless across Ireland,  again demonstrated that the Government’s response to the housing and homelessness crisis fall short of what is needed. The latest figures for March show a monthly drop of 126 compared to 9,807 in February.

However, Focus Ireland urged caution and warned that the overall annual figures for the last 12 months show a 37% increase in family homelessness in the last year. The figures rose from 1,256 families in March 2017 to 1,720 last month.  There was also a shocking 42% increase in the number of children homeless from 2,563children to 3,646 during this same period.

Commenting on the figures Focus Ireland Advocacy Director Mike Allen said: “It is great to see any drop in the numbers as it means fewer families, children and adults suffering the trauma of being homeless. Following the good news about falling number of rough sleepers in Dublin, this will inevitably lead some commentators to believe the homeless crisis is at last under control. However, while we don’t want to be negative we do have a duty to be realistic and draw attention to the fact that the overall figures show that there was a rise in the numbers of families homeless last year.

Mr. Allen said: “The Minister’s announcement that that there are significant inaccuracies in the figures, amounting to over 600 people, is deeply disturbing. In the midst of the greatest homeless crisis we have ever known, we need reliable data about the nature of the problem and what is being done to solve it. Virtually every other figure that the Department of Housing publishes is contested and considered unreliable by independent experts. For the homeless figures to be added to the list of figures we cannot rely on is deeply disturbing.

“The Minister seemed to suggest last week that difficulties in producing reliable figures would justify publishing the homeless figures less frequently, and only on a quarterly basis. This would be a mistake. The Minister needs to move rapidly to re-establish confidence in the reliability of the figures by putting their publication under the control of the CSO and establishing a regular monthly date for their publication.”

Mr. Allen said: “The overall trend shows a clear 37% increase in family homelessness in Ireland and we believe that this shows that the Government strategy is still failing to tackle the deepening crisis. These figures clearly show that the Government Rebuilding Ireland strategy is not delivering the amount of housing that we need to get to grips with the crisis.  Focus Ireland firmly believes that the Government must act to take the decisions it has shied away from for several years. This includes actively building social housing, taxing those who hoard building land and protecting the rights of tenants facing eviction.”

“While the speed at which new houses are being built is now beginning to speed up, we are starting from such a low base that this is still making very little impact on the problem. Reports during the week which show Ireland to have one of the lowest rates of home building in Europe show how far we still have to go, and the modest building targets set by Minister Murphy for the local authorities fall far short of what is really needed.

Mr Allen concluded: “We always highlight that here is so much good work being done by the State, Local authorities and NGO’s such as Focus Ireland, and that without this tireless work the current crisis would be so much worse.  But that does not take from the reality that still more needs to be done to keep people in their homes and prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.  The Government needs to move from managing rising homelessness towards ending it and must take the decisions required to do this.”

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