Secure accommodation key to reducing homeless deaths, says Cork Simon

Call comes after four men died on streets in Cork this year

Four homeless men have died on the streets in Cork this year. File photograph

Four homeless men have died on the streets in Cork this year. File photograph


Providing more secure accommodation is key to reducing both the number of people sleeping rough, and the risk of people dying on the streets, according to Cork Simon following the deaths of four men on the streets of the city this year.

Cork Simon director Dr Dermot Kavanagh said there has always been a link between homelessness and addiction issues, and not just through people becoming homeless because of addiction issues.

“You always have had a link between homelessness and addiction and it can be a two way link – sometime people who have drug and alcohol problems are more vulnerable to becoming homeless, and that’s how some end up on the streets.

“But also if you become homeless, it is such a traumatic experience to find yourself on the street that you can find yourself drinking more, taking more drugs, using drugs less safely and much more at high risk of overdose.”

Dr Kavanagh acknowledged that four people who had been availing of homeless services in Cork have died on the streets so far this year and he pointed to increasing secure accommodation as one step towards tackling the problem.

“We’ve seen a recent spate of deaths here in Cork but the reality is that you have 50 or so homeless deaths in Ireland [each year] and the biggest single factor there is drugs and alcohol,” he said.

“The two are inextricably linked and what you find is that the more secure a person’s accommodation is, the less the risk of people of dying of overdose so there is a link between housing stability and overdose deaths.”

Four deaths

Last month, a man in his 20s who was originally from the midlands but had been living rough on the streets in Cork, was found dead on Lower Oliver Plunkett Street in the city centre at around 1.30pm on July 18th.

Some five weeks earlier, a 47-year-old Polish man, who had been availing of Cork Simon services, was found was found dead in a doorway, also on Lower Oliver Plunkett Street early on the morning June 8th.

And in April, two other men were found dead on the streets of Cork with one man, a native of Blackrock in his 30s, being found dead on Horgan’s Quay near the city centre on April 29th.

It’s understood the man, who was known to the homeless services in Cork, had been living rough on the streets and suffered from addiction issues as well as an underlying medical issue.

Four days earlier, on April 25th, a man in his 30s from Passage West in the lower Cork Harbour area, was found dead near Parnell Place Bus Station in the city centre after a suspected drug overdose.

Heroin problem

Dr Kavanagh stressed it was too early to comment in detail on each case until toxicology results taken at post-mortem are known and the exact cause of deaths can be established, but he acknowledged a growing heroin problem in Cork.

“If you go back ten years in Cork, there really wasn’t that much of a heroin issue in Cork but it’s grown steadily since then and there is a clear association between heroin and the overdose deaths that we have seen,” he said.

Dr Kavanagh said that with rising homelessness, both Cork and the country nationally has seen a rise in the number of deaths, confirming a long-established correlation between rough sleeping and early death.

“Studies have shown the average age of death for a homeless person on the streets is 42 whereas the average age for men is in their 70s and for women in their 80s, so if you are on the streets, you are vulnerable to all sort of risks.”

Dr Kavanagh was speaking following the launch earlier this week of Cork Simon’s Annual Report for 2018, which has shown the first reduction in a number of years in the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Cork.

According to the report, the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in Cork fell by 23 per cent in 2018 while the number of people availing of Cork Simon’s Nightlight Service providing emergency shelter increased by 25 per cent.

“We had to extend our Nightlight service, with support from Cork City Council, given the number of people in need of emergency accommodation. This contributed to a 23 per cent reduction in the number of people sleeping rough.”