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Sunday 24 September 2017

Homelessness 'making addiction crisis worse'

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Ian Begley

Unprecedented homelessness is worsening the addiction crisis in the capital as living on the street acts as a barrier to getting treatment, Merchant's Quay Ireland (MQI) says.

In its annual review for 2016, the rehabilitation service highlighted the continued growth of homelessness and its impact on the drug crisis. A total of 6,539 people used MQI homeless services last year.

More than 10,000 individuals with needs spanning addiction, mental health and homelessness sought its help.

"The impact of the current unprecedented level of homelessness is most acutely felt at street level, where active drug users are being left behind as the Government scrambles to address the urgent needs of families," said Tony Geoghegan, chief executive of MQI.

"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.

Last year, 2,519 individuals used MQI's needle-exchange service - 421 of these individuals were first-time presenters. In total, there were 25,603 needle-exchange visits in 2016.

Mr Geoghegan added that homeless drug users who engage in a successful treatment plan is "extremely remote".

"Against all odds, some people do successfully engage in and complete treatment. However, their efforts are hugely undermined in the current housing crisis," he said.

In a bid to alleviate this issue, the Dublin Simon Community is planning a 70-bed recovery centre for homeless drug addicts and alcoholics at Usher's Island.

However, an inner city primary school and local residents have lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against Dublin City Council's decision to give the plan the go-ahead.

School principal Eilish Meagher argued that "the area is over-saturated with community facilities and in particular detox and rehabilitation centres". A decision is due on the appeal in late December.

The MQI review also revealed that it provided 117,398 meals for Ireland's homeless and hungry over the course of last year - an increase of 19pc from 2015.

Shelter was provided in its Night Cafe for 2,022 people.

Of the 114 people who completed rehabilitation programmes, 47pc were homeless.

The review showed the physical and psychological impact of being homeless is most clearly seen in the rising demand of primary healthcare services.

MQI provided 7,649 healthcare interventions in 2016, an increase of 73pc on 2015.

Irish Independent

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