An alliance of drug and homeless services is calling on the next government to extend Covid-19 emergency accommodation supports to the end of the year.
Merchants Quay Ireland, Coolmine and Depaul issued a joint call for short-term measures around housing, healthcare, and treatment capacity to ensure the “most vulnerable people are not lost” as the country emerges from the Covid-19 crisis.
Emergency measures enabled people to move out of shared accommodation and into isolation, cocooning, and step-down units.
In the Dublin region alone an additional 1,000 beds in hotels and tourist apartments were provided for singles, couples, and families during the lockdown.
The measures “minimised” viral transmission and meant there were no Covid-19 deaths among those availing of drug and homeless services.
Access to methadone treatment programmes also improved, with waiting times falling from 12 weeks to five days and around 600 people accessing treatment.
In a submission to government, the frontline services said the emergency response was a “significant step forward” and should continue given the possibility of a second Covid-19 wave.
Chief Executive Officer of Depaul, David Carroll said: “The existing provision of apartments and hotel rooms should continue for the rest of the year, with people moved into long-term sustainable homes as quickly as possible,”
Chief Executive of Merchants Quay Ireland, Paula Byrne, added there was a “huge uptake” for opiate treatment programmes during the lockdown: “That was a positive step and we’d like that to continue so that people can access services and support when they need it.”
The report details the challenges for some service users during the pandemic, such as 49-year-old Mary, who spent 12 weeks in a homeless ‘cocooning’ unit because of underlying medical issues. “I was sharing a house with 35 other women so if it came into the house, I could have died from it. So, my doctor got me put into the hotel I’m in now,” Mary said.
Mary, however, is now concerned about her future accommodation: “That’s what worries me when this is all over, where am I going?”
The frontline services also predict an increase in demand for support because of the impacts of Covid-19 and are calling for 'recovery' housing, more residential detox and treatment beds, and specific services for women.