O’Sullivan accuses authorities of undermining drug-free accommodation

Facility no longer ‘rock of stability’ after pressure to house homeless people, says TD

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan has accused Ministers, Dublin City Council and the Health Service Executive of a "serious breach of duty of care" in undermining drug-free accommodation for homeless people because of the pressure to provide emergency accommodation.

Ms O’Sullivan said one facility providing accommodation to 18 people in recovery had been a “rock of stability” but because of the pressure before Christmas to take homeless people off the street it was no longer drug- free.

What had happened “has been disastrous”, she said. The change how accommodation was provided went ahead “in spite of all the warnings . . . in spite of findings from a report on homelessness and addiction and in spite of recommendations from the users’ forum”.

“There is now widespread heroin use. There is dealing and chaotic behaviour. There are multiple relapses. There has been at least one serious overdose and there are debt issues as well,” she said.


Appeal for commitment

She appealed in the Dáil to Tánaiste Joan Burton “for a firm commitment to the principle of separate accommodation for those in recovery who are drug- free and those who are actively using”.

Ms O’Sullivan also asked that “the few who remained on their recovery journey are given proper accommodation in order that they can remain on that recovery journey”.

Ms Burton said she did not know exactly the location or the institution Ms O’Sullivan was referring to and was thus “not quite sure what the situation is”. The Tánaiste said she would be happy to speak to her in private.

She added: “I understood that the different organisations, under their different remits and mandates, were approaching it in line with their particular philosophies.”

Ms O’Sullivan highlighted the case of a former heroin addict in the hostel, who for the past 20 months has been alcohol and drug-free.

She told the Dáil he said the past month “has been the most difficult and challenging”.

“He states that the change has left many at great risk and the timing of the changeover was disastrous, given that it was at Christmas, which alone results in a high rate of relapse.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times