The New Normal


Early this morning, just after midnight.

At a homeless hostel in Dublin.

Lee, who is currently homeless, tweetz:

“I got a ‘bed’ in the end tonight and as I have been given a warning for posting on Twitter already I wont be mentioning names of hostels as I suspect I’m barred for posting about another one. A few pillow donations wouldnt go a miss. Bad enough like 20 in one room on the floors.”

And, Lee adds:


On RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live last night.

Conor Skehan, the former chairman of the Housing Agency, was asked if he has an “issue” with the characterisation of the present homeless situation in Ireland as a “crisis”.

[The most recent figures from the Department of Housing show there were a record 9,968 people using emergency accommodation in Ireland in the final week of November]

Mr Skehan said:

“Housing is always going to be one of society’s pinch points and we can continue to allow ourselves, and the media, to be goaded into a situation of recognising any human need that’s unmet as a crisis.

“I’ve been trying for years to try to get them [the Government] to recognise and normalise the situation and getting dogs’ abuse for doing so.

“….we continuously allow ourselves to be goaded by people involved in advocacy which many others feel to be called ‘lobbying’ into trying to ignore the fact that we have equivalent levels of homelessness which is an incredible human tragedy to every other major country in Europe.”

Asked if that makes it right and if it’s normal to not have a place to live, Mr Skehan said:

It’s normal. It’s normal. It’s normal in the sense that human beings go through many different issues and emotional upheavals in their lives but there are particular ones that are equivalent of, we just talked about social media a minute ago – click bait – the ultimate emotional click bait that can be stimulated in another human being to say that somebody is without shelter.

“And it makes us vulnerable to emotional manipulation by that click bait, repeatedly pressing that point.”

“And you can open up a career for yourself in politics, you can open up a career for yourself in advocacy by pressing this button over and over again.”

Mr Skehan went on to claim the Government gives €152million a year to charities involved in homelessness. He said:

“The measure of a society is not that homelessness does not happen, the measure of the quality of the society we live in, is the speed with which we recognise, identify and rectify that situation. That’s the measure.

“But by trying to distort ourselves that we are, some how or other, as a Government, not doing anything about this or not doing enough about it, or not doing as much as can be done – that’s what’s causing resources to go to the wrong place.

“That’s what’s causing us to have a country that spends €152million of your money, every year, on charities that deal with homelessness. €152million  that could be spent on those people themselves. €152million of your money that’s being spent on their pension schemes,  and their premises.

“Have you seen the size of the main charity dealing with, Focus’s office building, up the top of Christchurch, have you seen the size? Their four-storey building?

“…Go and have a look, all of you. Go and have a look and then be outraged. Don’t be outraged with me.”


Watch back in full here


31 thoughts on “The New Normal

  1. Col

    I understand Skehan’s point, but is it normal for homeless figures to increase year on year on year?
    Is it normal for rents to continue to spiral out of control?
    Is it normal for house prices to continue rising well beyond the reach of many on decent wages?
    Why is he making excuses when he should be encouraging adding supply to meet demand (not necessarily social housing, but all housing)?

    1. realPolithicks

      The notion that certain things are “normal” in society is a fallacy anyway. Society is the way it is because that is how we have made it, we have decided that it is normal for a certain subset of society to be homeless or poor or both so therefore nothing extraordinary needs to be done about it. We could easily feed, house and educate every person in the world if we wanted to. Do we want to?

  2. Kdoc

    He made some valid points vis-á-vis the homeless industry which has in excess of 20 organisations and is only outdone by the number of suicide charities.

    1. Rob_G

      Mental. Surely there must be some synergies there?

      I remember a couple of years ago that the Simon Community in Cork was looking to increase it’s €7 million budget to provide services for fewer than 200 homeless people – what on earth are they doing with the money, 7 million seems an astronomical amount.

    2. Kolmo

      That’s the problem with a government ideologically hell-bent on out-sourcing the very services a government in a civilised country should provide, there needs to be a centrally coordinated emergency state response to the situation, the out-sourcing of social services to private entities is only cheaper in the short-term, well-meaning and undoubtedly humane volunteers are a source of free labour, that’s how they look at it, it’s not a used car business, it’s a real society, with real people. Whats the point of the government if they refuse to govern correctly.

  3. Joe

    Homeless industry?

    If FFG looked after the citizens of Ireland as they should and had a genuine housing policy instead of a privatisation agenda for all of its services whereby citizens are treated as “customers” there would be no need for homeless charities!

  4. johnny

    LA is dealing with a homeless crisis,the LA Times has a series (non paywall?) called Without a Home which deals with the issues and suggests some solutions.Its really excellent and a terrific example of good local journalism,with national and perhaps international impact.Not sure how applicable they are in Irish context so may be a bit LA or yank, volunteering or working at The Midnight Mission on Skid Row will change anyones perspective on homelessness as a ‘lifestyle’ choice or that’s its normal.

    “They’re part of the Los Angeles streetscape, as familiar as the swaying palm trees and idling traffic, living under freeways, alongside riverbeds and on canyon hillsides. The mentally ill, the drug addicts, the economically disadvantaged, many with their life belongings in a backpack or shopping cart. In this ongoing series, Without a Home, The Times is examining the crisis of homelessness in our region.”

  5. Ian-O

    It could be argued that due to our increased lifespan, cancer, dementia and a whole raft of other conditions and diseases are to considered ‘normal’ but we still throw resources at them.

    I agree about the whole ‘charity industry’ part – why on earth are the government funding charities for what is essentially a state issue, that been housing for people?

    The reality is that there are two layers of homelessness – one is the the traditional, if I can call it that, type that is made up individuals who have substance abuse issues but almost all result from some form of mental health issue and/or trauma and these are quite difficult to deal with no matter how successful and compassionate the society.

    The other one, which is much newer and more disturbing in many ways, is that of the working or available to work poor who simply cannot get social housing or afford Dublin (or any other city) rental rates.

    While the first has always been difficult to deal with, it also ties in with our absolute abandonment of any real mental health services in this country. Children are literally dying by suicide waiting to access state supports, some being given dates years into the future for a few minutes with a mental health professional. These children appear doomed to a cycle of mental anguish which inevitable ends with either substance abuse or suicide. As for psychiatric institutions, they are horrific places no matter how hard the staff work due to them being continuously the poor relation in healthcare. How many times have successive governments of any flavour ‘ring fenced’ funds only to raid them at a later date for more popular reasons?

    Normality is not a strictly defined benchmark when you are talking about real peoples lives. Whatever this guys intentions and I am not going to second guess him based on media reports at this stage, but his choice of language is ill advised, to say the least.

  6. Junkface

    I thought that the money given to Homeless charities by the Gov’t ONLY got spent on the actual homeless, and new accommodation for them. They put this money into Charites management and employees pensions!?? I thought that was illegal.

    1. Dr.Fart MD

      regulatory laws in ireland are very rarely abided by. we all know that by now. wherever there’s large sums of money changing hands in ireland, there’ll be people fiddling books and gettin their paws mucky.

    1. Ian-O

      After reading that I take back what I said, this guy is a fool.

      ”He also disputed any link between temperature and carbon-dioxide (CO2) levels.”

      Sounds like him and Trump would get along well. I presume he has no qualifications to make such a statement?

      ”Referring to polar bears in the Arctic, Dr Skehan said the only area where they were actually decreasing was “because the tribe of people who live in that area made their living by selling their licences to shoot polar bears to American tourists”.”

      Utter BS.

      1. Clampers Outside!

        No need to take back what you said with regard to there being a “charity industry”. You made some great points in that comment above.

        But yeah, he’s quite the fool on traffic, and polar bears…. yeesh :/

        1. :-Joe

          I mean this sincerely.

          You’re on an express train to ignorance-ville when you don’t carefully question the sources of where you get your information from.

          Stop spreading ignorance through your confusion from reading disinformation and then blurting it out as factually-incorrect misinformation.

          We are living in a climate crisis whether you figure out that it’s real or not.


  7. $hifty

    He’s right……homelessness has become a business for certain groups. It is in their interest to bang this particular drum in the media as often and as loud as possible because this is there bread and butter. These guys would be out of a job if we eradicated homelessness.

    Total employment costs for 2017 – €14.9million (page 24)
    Total state funding – €14.4million (page 11)

    Think about that for a second. Every penny the Government gives these guys, plus the first half a million raised via collection, plus the €200k used to fund tht collection (also page 13) is spent on staff salaries and pensions. Before a cup of tea or a sleeping bag or a pair of dry socks is handed out, they take the first €15million+.

    If they didn’t exist, and that €15 mill was handed out to an organisation that already receives funding that covers the wages (or vice versa), it would all go towards where it’s needed.

    Scandalous, really.

    1. Rob_G

      Jesus – didn’t know it was that much.

      Rough sleepers in Dublin tend to between 100 -150 people, so that works out at about €100k per person(!)

      1. Iwerzon

        “Rough sleepers in Dublin tend to between 100 -150 people, so that works out at about €100k per person(!)” and fupp the rest of Ireland.

        1. Rob_G

          PMCVT is just one of 20 homeless organisations; whatever way you cut it, it is a huge amount of expenditure, and I think it is normal to question if it is being spent in the best possible way to tackle the problem.

    2. Cian

      To put this into context.
      – There were 387 employees. 378 of whom earn less than €60,000 (the average is 38K).
      – Pensions totalled €69K (this is less than 0.5% of the staff costs).
      – Peter McVerry get €0
      – the directors are voluntary and received no remuneration, expenses or allowances

      Staff costs for fundraising is 475K – so about 12 people work there?

      A good proportion of the rest would be working on helping the homeless – either directly: by running the services (including drug treatment), or indirectly (e.g. by purchasing, renovating, fixing homes).

      1. Rob_G

        All of that sounds quite reasonable – were it not that are 20 other organisations with a similar staff structure were working in parallel on the same issue.

  8. kellMA

    It is and it isn’t. If they gave that money to an existing organisation then they would need to staff up for the higher volumes that were previously being met by the other one. Ok, there may be some synergies to be had (one board of management for example) but in the grand scheme of things the “fingers and thumbs” needed to “service” the homeless are still needed and those people have to be paid. And whether those fingers and thumbs are found in the private sector or the public sector, you could argue there is better value for money to be found in the private sector.

  9. Baffled

    After reading the above I’d a look at Focus Ireland’s latest Annual Report to see how it spends the money it gets in.

    Income in 2017 was €28.6m.

    Of that, €23m went on Charitable Activities (see below); €3m on fundraising; and €0.3m on interest costs, resulting in a surplus for the year of €2.4m.

    Note 7 to the financial statements contained in Focus Ireland’s 2017 annual report show the breakdown of the €23m spent under the heading of ‘Charitable Activities’.

    Included in this €23m…

    €13.9m went on staff costs
    €4.2m on premises costs
    €2.2m on support costs (Finance, IT, HR etc.)
    €1.0m on advocacy
    €0.9m on administration
    €0.9m on programme activities

    Link to the above is here:

    1. johnny

      When you highlight staff costs is it supposed be some OMG ‘gotcha’ moment-they are an advisory group which duh employs staff to eh wait for it,advise people-WTF do you want them spend the money on sleeping bags and sandwiches ?

  10. :-Joe

    If you think the homeless charities and their budgets are the problem you are either ignorant, morally on the extreme right or just plain devoid of empathy for fellow human beings.

    The only solution that works for “HOUSE”-lessness is to build houses and if the ff/fg establishment for foreign private global financial interests party, who are permanently in government, cared to deal with the problem through budgeting and planning as a department of the state there would be almost no HOUSE-lessness as it would be a mere fraction of the lowest it has ever been.

    It is financially better for the economy to just give houses to people in need as the cost to the taxpayer for doing nothing until there is a crisis breaking point without planning always costs far more and in many other ways than a few dead poor people on the streets, which unfortunately is how many of you think about the problem.

    A home is an abstract concept but a house is a real and tangible object that provides shelter allowing a person to have the opportunity to live a healthier, more productive(less wasted taxpayers money you fools) and a chance at a self-sustained determined life.


    1. Andrew

      Joe the ignorance lies with you. Your naivety and intolerance of other views helps nobody.
      Jonathan Corrie was GIVEN at least one home by his family and still died on the streets.

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