Despair among the destitute taking toll on mental health, says Simon

‘Homelessness has become a waiting game and these people are running out of time’

Homelessness. A homeless man begs in a lane near Grafton Street, as the launch of two restorative practice reports at the Royal College of Surgeons has been announced today in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 9, 2014.  Fr. Peter McVerry has encouraged greater use of Restorative Practices as a measure to tackle homelessness at the launch of two restorative Practice reports in Dublin today. Fr. McVerry said that greater use of restorative practice in disadvantaged families, communities and in schools would help to prevent homelessness. See PA story POLITICS Homeless Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A growing hopelessness and despondency among homeless people is “taking a huge toll” on their mental health, the Dublin Simon charity has warned.

Publishing its 2021 annual report on Thursday it said where people tended to spend months in homelessness in past years, they could expect to be homeless for several years now, while increasing waiting times for services, particularly in mental health and drug detox were also “having a deep and lasting impact ... People are losing hope as homelessness figures continue to rise”.

Simon chief executive Sam McGuinness said the situation was the “grimmest” he had seen across 20 years in his post.

“Our figures show the frightening reality that while the homelessness crisis is gathering pace, the people trying desperately to exit from it are spending a lot of time standing still, waiting for move-on options, waiting for accommodation, waiting for essential healthcare and treatment supports. Homelessness has become a waiting game and these people are running out of time, he said”


The report finds waiting times for its mental health and detox services increased by 68 per cent and 13 per cent respectively, while 44 per cent of the detox service users were homeless for more than five years.

Speaking at the publication, Ken Eivers, resident in a Dublin Simon accommodation facility, described what it has been like in homelessness.

“It’s all waiting — waiting, waiting, waiting every day — for a phone call, for a referral, for confirmation you have somewhere to sleep that night. And that’s not even anywhere near the stage of moving into a home. When you go into emergency accommodation you soon learn that nothing moves quickly in this system and it’s all out of your control. It wears you down.”

The charity says there is “an overwhelming sense of being stuck, from across all services from emergency accommodation to detox and recovery”.

Mr McGuinness said: “In my nearly 20 years as chief executive of Dublin Simon Community, the situation today is the grimmest I have ever seen. We worked with a total of 6,602 people last year across our services and not one of them should have to be in this situation.

“I remember a time when people spent a couple of months in emergency accommodation before moving on to a long-term home. Today, we have such an overwhelming number of people stuck in the emergency accommodation system that we could be facing the real prospect of people being stuck on the street.

“We are dealing with more complex cases than we have ever encountered. Some have multiple addictions and some have severe mental and physical health issues. These people are exhausted from weathering what life is throwing at them from all angles; the diminishing prospect of exiting homelessness, decreased access to vital services, two years of worldwide anxiety and isolation, rising inflation and the strain that all these things put on families and relationships.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times