Waiting time for homeless addiction programmes triples in two years

Average waiting time in second quarter of year was 82 days, says Simon Communities

Homeless people in Dublin are waiting almost three times longer for a drug and alcohol addiction programme than they were two years ago due to an increase in demand for the service, a housing charity has said.

The Simon Communities said that the average waiting time for its drug and benzodiazepines detox programme in the capital has increased from 30 days in 2017, to 39 days in 2018 and up to 82 days in the second quarter of this year.

The charity currently has 61 people on the waiting list, which it said is a record high.

The Simon Communities also runs a day counselling service, and delivered 2,438 hours in 2018. In the same year, their out-of-hours suicide prevention team delivered 360 interventions.

Speaking at the Simon Communities annual conference on homelessness, Majella Darcy, head of treatment and enterprise in the Dublin Simon, said it is important to ensure the wellbeing of people in homelessness is protected.

“I think the additional new emergency accommodation and people being supported to address addiction as a means of exiting homelessness has contributed to this, and while that’s positive, we need to try and meet the needs of these people,” Ms Darcy said.

“Unfortunately while poverty and inequality will always be with us, we do need to continue to look at what individuals need in order to flourish, to rebuild their lives and to create homes for themselves.

Ms Darcy said to address this issue, policymakers need to understand the “complex biographies” that lead people into homelessness.

No roots

“In addressing and moving towards a more mature way of tackling homelessness, we need to acknowledge the social dimensions of homelessness, the economic inequalities, the differential opportunities for social and societal participation, intergenerational problem of social marginalisation and poverty,” she added.

Speaking at the same conference, Orla Hegarty, assistant professor of architecture at UCD, said that the current approach to housing is not working and that the State needs to move away from temporary solutions and focus on more long-term sustainable answers.

“These buildings, hotels, student accommodation, co-living type of units, are cellular institutional buildings and they are very difficult to adapt to primary housing in the future so a lot of these buildings may be demolished,” Ms Hegarty said.

“We are building temporary communities that people cannot put roots down in. It’s just delaying the problem. As long as people are in temporary accommodation, and lacking any security, lacking any space for their children to walk around and do their homework, it is impacting on their health and their mental health,” she added.

Parties old and new

Michael O’Sullivan, economist and author, said the change in the political landscape, could be an opportunity to address the homeless crisis in new and novel ways.

“Old parties are dying.

“New parties, extreme right, extreme left, and the centre will spring up and that’s important for issues like mental health and homelessness because many of the old parties were very rigid in how they approached policy issues,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“It’s a time of opportunity to force these issues through.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times