Call for 'one stop shop' to help women facing crisis

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Fiona Dillon

The average lifespan for homeless women in Ireland is only 38, while for men it is 44.

A report published yesterday at a webinar organised by the homelessness and addiction charity Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) highlighted the complex needs faced by women in addiction and homelessness.

The report, compiled in partnership with the UCD Comm- unity Drugs Programme, revealed that:

  • 42pc of homeless people are female.
  • In 2017 there were 211 female drug-related deaths in Ireland, a 7pc increase on 2016.
  • Women who experience violence and abuse are eight times more likely to be drug dependent.
  • One third of the 271 million people who use drugs across the world are female.

"In responding to the chall- enges facing women accessing services, it is imperative that we provide gender-responsive and trauma-informed services to meet the needs of women and are accessible to all in need," MQI chief executive Paula Byrne said.

She said services needed to be comprehensive to address the issues women face.

"We need to secure long-term funding for a women's centre which would provide a 'one stop shop' for access to information and support across health, add- iction, violence and abuse, legal issues, education, employment support, counselling and mental health services," she said.

Studies have found that such spaces increase feelings of safety, respect and dignity among women who use drugs and who have experienced abuse.


"Providing safe and stable housing for women as they exit treatment or interventions is also key," Ms Byrne said.

Investment is needed for education, training skills dev- elopment to ensure staff have the competencies to encour- age women using drugs to acc-ess or engage with services and to intervene for them eff- ectively.

"We know building trust is so important, and women dealing with complex issues need to know they can access safe spaces where they can start to build trust with service providers," said Dr Sarah Morton, lead author of the briefing paper.

"Only then will we see significant improvements in outcomes for women dealing with mul- tiple issues."