Families now face losing their homes twice, warns campaigner
Families are being made homeless twice over - after first finding new accommodation, then being evicted by private landlords, a campaigner has warned.
Fr Peter McVerry said the Government is more focused on spin than resolving the spiralling housing crisis where just fewer than 10,000 people find themselves in emergency accommodation.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Fr McVerry said many are wary of availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme and many people becoming homeless would never have imagined they would end up in that position.
"Some people who became homeless because of eviction in the private rental sector through the HAP scheme got accommodation in the private rental sector and a year or two later found themselves homeless again when the landlord decided to sell the house," he said.
Fr McVerry estimates figures would be in the hundreds of thousands if the definition of homelessness included sofa-surfers and the hidden homeless.
He said the Government was attempting to normalise homelessness.
He pointed to comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last year when he said Ireland had one of the lowest levels of homelessness by international standards when he referred to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report.
However, Fr McVerry said the report stressed there was no way of comparing trends to other countries because of different definitions of homelessness.
"That report explicitly stated you cannot compare homelessness between countries because countries use different definitions of homelessness," he said.
"Some included in their homeless figures adults still living with their parents who couldn't afford to move out.
"If we included adults still living with their parents who couldn't afford to move out, our homeless figures would be in the hundreds of thousands."
He also hit out at the recategorisation of homeless people in figures released this year, labelling it "a blatant attempt to manipulate the figures".
Fr McVerry said the 1,600 taken out of the homeless figures were in accommodation that was under Section 10 funding, which is paid for through homeless accommodation funding.
"Anybody is homeless if they are in accommodation which is temporary or transient where you can't settle down, you can't build links in the local community, you can't send your child to the local school knowing that child will be in the school in five or 10 years' time," he said.
Responding to Fr McVerry's claims, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing said solving the crisis is "an absolute priority".
"During the compilation of the February homeless report, the department held discussions with a number of local authorities following higher than expected increases in the numbers of families accessing emergency accommodation.
"It was established that certain local authorities had been categorising individuals and families who had been provided with accommodation in local authority owned stock or in properties secured by the local authorities under other arrangements, as being in emergency accommodation," a spokeswoman said.