Depaul calls on HSE and Department of Health to do more

Charity ‘surprised’ at lack of health funding in homeless project

 Kerry Anthony,  chief executive of  Depaul, at the launch of the homeless charity’s annual report.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Kerry Anthony, chief executive of Depaul, at the launch of the homeless charity’s annual report. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

The HSE and Department of Health are not doing their bit to help tackle homelessness, a leading advocate has warned.

Kerry Anthony, chief executive of Depaul, was speaking at the publication of the charity’s 2017 annual report on Monday. According to the report, the “number of single adults in homelessness continues to rise beyond crisis point” while Depaul doubled its number of emergency beds in Dublin to 200.

Speaking to The Irish Times after the formal report publication, Ms Anthony agreed a significant proportion of last week’s budget, in its approach to the housing and homelessness crises, was to increase funding for homelessness services.

“We are always happy when there is a focus on homelessness,” she said, but added Depaul’s focus was on the “housing first” approach to addressing homelessness among single adults. This approach sees long-term homeless adults placed directly into housing with a “wrap-around” of supports to help them in the tenancy, in contrast to the more traditional model where adults pass through emergency options and hostels before accessing housing.

“We need more and more to be done in getting housing into the system, and that has to be the priority. Just putting money in at the emergency end is not going to solve our crisis,” she said, speaking at one of the charity’s four hostels in Dublin city centre.

The most recent data, published last week by the Department of Housing, show there were 3,484 homeless, single adults in August 2018 – up 5.5 per cent from 3,295 a year previously.

Ms Anthony said the lack of input from the Department of Health or HSE to the issues was “really surprising”.

Lack of commitment

“The other thing from the budget perspective that I couldn’t really understand, or couldn’t see, was the lack of commitment from health [services] to homelessness.

“Housing is a part of it but [the Department of] Health is as well. Health is a really important feature. We see that in terms of the client group we work with. I was talking today about the nurse and GP interventions we provide in our own services. And there is no health funding for it.

“Our clients are people with really, really complex needs and health funding needs to be committed. This project here has no health funding. We bring on our own nurses. There is no health funding for this service. Long term, if this service is going to be here for a period of time, health funding needs to be committed.”

Last year, 19 babies were born to women accessing Depaul’s services, while 779 homeless children received support from trained staff.