Opinion: Kilkenny's homeless figures present multiple narratives

Darren Hassett writes in this week's Kilkenny People about the county's homeless statistics...

Darren Hassett

Reporter:

Darren Hassett

Email:

darren.hassett@kilkennypeople.ie

Homeless

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Alleviating the homelessness problem over the past 12 months is not a victory in any sense for Kilkenny with over 200 people still presenting as homeless to date this year alone.

That’s a shocking number of people, but the county – like all parts of the country – is dealing with the effects of a national housing crisis and burgeoning rents with Kilkenny’s prices up 13% year on year for the second quarter of 2017.

The homeless figures for the last two and a half years in the county are an essential but imperfect barometer on whether or not the issue here has worsened – for the most part, it hasn’t.

In fact, the county has made inroads in reducing the number of people presenting as homeless.

The total amount of people who presented as homeless in 2015 stood at 401 - but for last year this had dropped to 345 and up until August of this year some 208 people had presented - almost half of 2015’s figure.

This is a clear indication that the problem in Kilkenny is at least not getting worse, but the problem with statistics is that they’re cold and don’t convey the real tragedy behind the numbers.

They are also a matter of perspective. For example, while the numbers have been going down, the latest figures from the Department of Housing show that in June there were 69 people homeless in Kilkenny with 76 in Tipperary and 93 in Waterford.

That’s 69 lives without a roof over their heads that they can call their own - it’s also however only one fewer than the same month last year.

The figure for Kilkenny in June of this year also compares with 64 the month previous so on that basis the problem does not seem to have improved much at all.

But it needs to be looked at over longer periods of time in order to get a clear picture. It becomes apparent quite quickly that there are a multitude of narratives that can be drawn out of statistics.

The problem could be getting better or getting worse based on the figures but the most important thing is that the numbers presenting as homeless are going down.

There were almost 8,000 people recorded nationally as homeless in June of 2017.

The Department says progress has been made in moving families out of hotel and B&B accommodation, with just 638 in that type of emergency accommodation across the country.

However, the figures overall show the number of homeless people continuing to rise, with over 120 more adults in emergency accommodation compared to the previous month.

A total of 954 people presented as homeless for the 958 days to the middle of August of this year across Kilkenny.

The council says it should be noted that people presenting as homeless is “not necessarily a direct indication that they are homeless”.

Many homeless presentations “relate to persons who are not homeless but potentially homeless, have been served with Notices to Quit, have been evicted or removed from their existing source of accommodation etc.”

Kilkenny is fortunate to have places like the Good Shepherd Centre which works with homeless men and those at risk of becoming homeless, in Kilkenny and its environs.

Here’s hoping the council and services like the Good Shepard can continue their valiant effort in taking on one of the biggest problems in the country at present.

The trend in figures for Kilkenny, however callous a method they are of tracking the homeless problem, are seeing a reduction in those presenting as homeless and while it’s no victory, it merits being highlighted.