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Do you think the homeless crisis is a myth?

Do you think the homeless crisis is a myth?

I know I have asked that question before but there is a valid reason for the question today.

According to the chair of a major State housing body, “homelessness is a dreadful thing when it happens to someone, but it is a normal thing, it happens,” 

In a recent interview, Conor Skehan said we need to move from a situation where we use words like “homeless’” and “crisis” continuously.

Skehan is the chair of the Housing Agency, the government body set up in 2010 to advise on policy for housing.

He said that “The word ‘normal’ is the enemy of the word crisis, but once you normalise it you can start to give people challenges to ask are we dealing with this as effectively as we could do.

He went on to say:

When we start to realise we are the same as all the other countries in Europe we start to start to take the emotion out of this argument, because emotion is the enemy of this. Homelessness is something that reaches right into our entrails and upsets us and worries us and we are so easily manipulated when we are in that state and what the Taoiseach is doing is dead right…

The discussion about homelessness in Ireland has been pushed back on the agenda, after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the homeless figures in Ireland are low in comparison to the rest of Europe.

The Taoiseach said:

“Obviously homelessness and the number of people in emergency accommodation has increased over the last number of years, but by international standards homelessness in Ireland is low but that is not good enough. We want to turn the tide on it.”

Homeless charities and those in the opposition have since come out to criticise the Taoiseach for his comments, and called on him to retract them and apologise.

Niamh Randall of the Simon Community disputes the Taoiseach’s claim.

She said the real challenge is “not comparing like with like”, highlighting that countries have inconsistent definitions for homelessness and therefore are measuring very different things.

It excludes people who are rough sleeping, hidden homeless figures like people not living in state funded accommodation, those in direct provision, and those living in domestic violence shelters.

Randall highlighted this stating the reports on homelessness, such as from the OECD (which the Taoiseach based his remarks on) come with health warnings that the measure used in Ireland is more limited than in other countries, and international comparison is messy.

She said homelessness is about people – their lives, their homes and people planning for the future.

Skehan was also asked what is an acceptable level of homelessness?

He said “The man from Nazareth said, ‘the poor will always be with us’. There will never be a night when a set of loving parents [doesn’t] show their heroin addicted son the door. There will never be a night when a woman hasn’t been hit for the last time by her abusive partner and finds herself out on the street with no plans. That day will never come,”

Tonight I want to know if you agree with Skehan and the Government on this. Do you think we need to stop calling this a homeless and housing crisis?

Or do you think they are completely misguided and the situation has become a crisis.

We rang around homeless shelters and hostels tonight to find out how many beds were available.

(insert figures here)

Do you think the homeless crisis is a myth? Or do you think it exists?

I want to get your views on this.

So – is the homeless crisis a myth?

Remember you can find more stories on the Niall Boylan Facebook and Twitter pages and remember #IrelandTalks4fm

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