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‘Grimmest situation ever’ for homeless people, warns charity over chronic lack of accommodation

22nd September 2022

A“chronic” lack of accommodation has created the “grimmest situation” homeless service users have ever faced, a leading charity has warned.

Published today, the Dublin Simon Community’s annual report has found that long waiting periods to exit emergency accommodation and access treatment is “taking its toll” on the mental and physical health of the capital’s homeless population.

“People are losing hope as homelessness figures continue to rise,” the report states.

“Among the top support needs reported by those residing in Dublin Simon Community Emergency Accommodation in 2021 were drug use (24pc), mental health (22pc), physical health (11pc) [and] alcohol use (9pc).”

The charity also found that waiting times for mental health and detox services have increased by 68pc and 13pc respectively as “demand continues to grow”.

Last year, 75pc of those presenting to Dublin Simon’s clinical services presented for the first time with “physical health and addiction issues”. Dublin Simon said 44pc of detox clients have been homeless for over five years, while 68pc of those who accessed its Sure Steps Counselling programme in 2021 were “first-time presenters”.

When you go into emergency accommodation you soon learn that nothing moves quickly in this system

When you go into emergency accommodation you soon learn that nothing moves quickly in this system

The report also states that the number of people accessing the charity’s education and employability services increased by 62pc over the 12-month period, while it grew its property stock by 3pc.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Dublin Simon resident Ken Eivers shared his experiences of being homeless.

“It’s all waiting – waiting, waiting, waiting, every day. For a phone call, for a referral, for confirmation you have somewhere to sleep that night. And that’s not even anywhere near the stage of moving into a home. When you go into emergency accommodation you soon learn that nothing moves quickly in this system and it’s all out of your control. It wears you down,” he said.

The ongoing lack of accessible one- and two-bed properties across the country has led to a situation which Dublin Simon CEO Sam McGuinness described as “the grimmest I have ever seen”.

“Our figures show the frightening reality that while the homelessness crisis is gathering pace, the people trying desperately to exit from it are spending a lot of time standing still, waiting for move-on options, waiting for accommodation, waiting for essential healthcare and treatment supports. Homelessness has become a waiting game, and these people are running out of time,” he said.

“In my nearly 20 years as CEO of Dublin Simon Community, the situation today is the grimmest I have ever seen. We worked with a total of 6,602 people last year across our services and not one of them should have to be in this situation. I remember a time when people spent a couple of months in emergency accommodation before moving on to a long-term home.

“Today, we have such an overwhelming number of people stuck in the emergency accommodation system that we could be facing the real prospect of people being stuck on the street. As a frontline service provider, we are still operating within Covid restrictions across our services which is stretching our capacity even further.”

He added: “Exhaustion is visible in every area of our work. We saw it among the 5,225 contacts made by the outreach team over the year and it was palpable among the 439 people who accessed our emergency accommodation services.

“Our teams are working extremely hard to ensure that those who are currently housed stay out of this situation, evidenced by the 2,564 people supported through our tenancy sustainment teams during 2021.”

The report also states that over the last three years. waiting times for Dublin Simon detox and counselling services have increased by 120pc and 130pc respectively.

Of the charity’s 408 Sure Steps Counselling clients in 2021, 20pc were on the waiting list for over 60 days. Among the highest reported primary reasons for referral to the service last year were depression (13pc), anxiety/panic attacks (6pc), addiction recovery (6pc) and past trauma (6pc).

The charity’s head of clinical governance Majella Darcy said long-term homelessness has “devastating physical and mental health impacts”.

“A person is homeless until they can close their own front door behind them. The longer they wait for that to happen, the worse their mental health and physical health becomes in the long-term. The less likely they will still have the physical and mental capacity to do that when the time comes. This is the tragic reality for a record number of our people, she added.

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