Demand surges for homeless services

Ireland’s emergence from deep recession “has not lifted all boats”, with a leading homeless and drugs agency reporting a surge in demand for its services.

Demand surges for homeless services

Merchants Quay Ireland last year supplied almost 20% more meals compared to 2015 — and almost 50% more than 2014.

The agency director Tony Geoghegan said “thousands of vulnerable single men and women” were being “pushed further down” the housing queues by the prioritisation of housing families.

The agency’s annual review for 2016 shows:

  •  117,398 meals were provided to the homeless and hungry in 2016, compared to around 100,000 in 2015 and 80,000 to 2014;
  •  7,649 primary healthcare visits were provided in 2016, compared to 4,415 in 2015 (up 73%);
  •  3,927 GP consultations were provided in 2016, a rise of 85%;
  • 315 people accessed the agency’s mental health services, an increase of 8%;
  •  204 young people aged 18-25 were assisted by the Young Person’s Support Worker — a rise of 24%.

In addition, the agency provided emergency shelter to 2,022 people in 2016 — people who would have “otherwise slept on the streets”.

Its Night Cafe caters for up to 70 people every night, providing them with a padded mat on the floor. The review said 118 clean changes of clothes were provided per week, along with 513 pairs of socks and underwear per month as well as almost 6,200 showers.

In addition to the 177,000 hot meals provided, almost 29,500 lunches were provided and 150,000 cups of tea handed out.

Mr Geoghegan said that Ireland was at last emerging from more than seven years of deep recession and positive signs of economic growth.

“Sadly, the rising tide has not lifted all boats. Nowhere is this inequity felt more acutely than in the ever-increasing numbers of people in emergency accommodation,” he said.

He said in the week before last Christmas there were more than 7,100 people, including 2,500 children, in emergency accommodation.

“This is a massive 91% hike on figures seen just two years ago, and a 36% increase year on year.”

He said the impact of the current unprecedented level of homelessness is most acutely felt at street level, where active drug users were being left behind as the Government scrambled to address the urgent needs of families.

“While we respect the need to prioritise families, and in particular children, we must not lose sight of the urgent needs of thousands of vulnerable single men and women, and in particular those with more complex needs, who are being pushed further down the housing queue,” he said.

He said the harsh reality of living on the street as an active drug user was that the possibility of engaging in treatment successfully, when you didn’t know where you were going to be sleeping, was “extremely remote”.

Mr Geoghegan said some succeed, but their efforts were hugely undermined in the housing crisis, where access to stable accommodation was “almost impossible”.

More in this section