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Mental health issues and addiction problems major factors in people becoming homeless, conference hears

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Homeless Young Man Begging In Street. Stock picture

Homeless Young Man Begging In Street. Stock picture

Homeless Young Man Begging In Street. Stock picture

MENTAL health issues and addiction problems related to childhood trauma are now major factors in those finding themselves homeless in Ireland.

The revelation came as a major 'Street Medicine' conference heard that emergency accommodation across Ireland is now experiencing ever increasing numbers of so-called global homeless or people finding themselves living on the streets having come to Ireland in the hope of a better life.

More than 10,000 people are registered as homeless in Ireland or relying on emergency accommodation.

One Dublin Simon study indicated that 70pc of the charity's clients had some form of mental health difficulty.

Another study revealed that one in four homeless people referred to psychiatric hospitals over the past 10 years were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

That represented an increase of almost 50pc between 2007 and 2016.

Studies on those with addiction problems including drugs and alcohol found that many had suffered a severe personal trauma, often in childhood.

The fifth Irish Street Medicine symposium opened in Cork with the aim of bringing together health and social care workers, academics, policy makers and service users from around Ireland, to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society, such as those who are homeless, people who use drugs, prisoners and migrants.

Frontline healthcare workers acknowledged that the demands posed represent a major challenge for care professionals.

Health experts warned that Ireland can only adequately cope with the increasing demands posed by the most vulnerable in society by collaboration, information-sharing and a willingness to embrace new solutions and approaches.

Dr Fiona O’Reilly of Safetynet Primary Care said the best method of tackling the challenges facing the most vulnerable members of Irish society is for health professionals to promote the sharing of ideas and experiences.

“We believe there is power in sharing ideas and experience of what works and indeed what doesn’t to improve the health and access to care for the people we work with. This event enables networking, innovation and improved service,” she said.

Dr Anna Marie Naughton of the Adult Homeless Integrated Team said the vulnerable need urgent help.

“There is alchemy to bringing this diversity of expertise and passion together for the benefits of those who live on the margins,” she said.

A keynote presentation will be made at the conference by Dr Clíona Ní Cheallaigh, the first-ever hospital consultant in inclusion health medicine at St James Hospital.

Others participating in the conference include Merchant's Quay Ireland and the Dublin and Cork Simon Community.

Health Service Executive social inclusion official Joe Doyle said the street medicine project was vital for marginalised communities.

“Poverty and social exclusion have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the population. (We must) improve access to mainstream and targeted health services for people from disadvantaged groups and reduce inequalities in health."

Online Editors