Shared rooms in homeless shelters ‘reduce overdose deaths’

Peter McVerry Trust completes opening of 70-bed facility for homeless on Ellis Quay

 

The Peter McVerry Trust, which provides emergency accommodation in Dublin, had 14 deaths in its services this year, and 123 resuscitations, according to chief executive Pat Doyle.

These were mainly due to drug overdoses.

“If all our beds were in single rooms, the death toll would have been far higher,” Mr Doyle said.

He was responding to criticism in recent days – including from the charity’s founder, Fr Peter McVerry – that in much of Dublin’s emergency accommodation people must share rooms, often with strangers. Fr McVerry said “dormitory-style” accommodation was not suitable for vulnerable homeless people.

In contrast, Mr Doyle said on Thursday: “The most vulnerable often do better in company.”

Many of those resuscitated over the past year had been found by people they were sharing a room with, he said.

“Most homeless people would prefer their own room at night, but it’s not the best option for everyone,” he added. “It’s complex. We need different rooms for differing needs and we don’t have enough of a mix. Peter has said that, and that is true.”

Opening

Mr Doyle was speaking as the charity completed the opening of a 70-bed hostel near Ellis Quay. With the final 25 beds available from Thursday, the hostel, accommodating 30 women and 40 men, is now full.

Each of the three floors has bedrooms – including single, twin, three-and four-bed – plus a kitchen and common area, and shower facilities. There are four computers and each bedroom has a television, a wardrobe, noticeboards and bedside lockers.

Each resident will have a key worker and is guaranteed a bed at the facility until “at least next June”, said Mr Doyle.

Among them are friends Robert Moffat (32) and Ciaran Keating (30), who until Tuesday had lived for two years in a derelict building on Pearse Street.

“We found it because we had been going around checking empty buildings for somewhere to sleep,” said Moffat. “Most of the building was burnt, but we cleared one room. We had water, but no electricity. It was Baltic. We slept on cardboard and sleeping bags.”

Former heroin users, both men are now clean. Both had been in contact with the Peter McVerry Trust over the years and describe their new home as “the best in years”.

Asked about their hopes for the future, Moffat says simply: “A normal life.”

“I know everyone has their own story,” says Keating. “But I really, really, really hope, after all we’ve been through, that this is where things start going right. We deserve it. I think so anyway.”