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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 31 March, 2020

Drug-taking, violence and self-harming - what users of emergency accommodation witness at night

A new survey of the experiences of users has been published by the Dublin Inquirer.

Some homeless people have said they'd rather sleep rough than stay in emergency accommodation. (File)
Some homeless people have said they'd rather sleep rough than stay in emergency accommodation. (File)
Image: Leah Farrell/

ABOUT 90% OF people who’ve used emergency accommodation hostels in Dublin have seen drug-taking and violence during their time there.

The overwhelming statistics from a survey commissioned by the Dublin Inquirer newspaper paint a picture of the difficult experiences people in emergency accommodation face.

As well as being exposed to drug-taking and violence in the emergency hostels, 61% of the respondents to the survey say they have seen others self-harm.

Dublin Inquirer first began the project in March and sought to raise funds for a customer satisfaction survey among people who use emergency accommodation in the capital.

The idea behind it was to test reports from outreach workers that some people sleeping rough in the capital choose to sleep on the streets rather than rely on emergency accommodation.

The paper’s deputy editor Sam Tranum told of the idea at the time and said that looking at homeless services in this way was “the first such survey ever in Dublin”.

The survey was carried out by Amárach Research and involved speaking with 126 users of one-night-only hostels to get a sense of the standards they have come to expect.

The survey found that almost half of respondents (49%) use emergency accommodation every night with 39% saying they use it at least once a week.

Of those who don’t get a bed, the overwhelming majority (71%) say they end up sleeping rough with 11% saying they stay with family or friends.

In terms of what they’ve seen while in emergency accommodation, most reported negative experiences.

Drinking was a common sight with 93% saying they’d observed it and a further 91% saying they’d seen drug-taking. Bullying/intimidation was observed by 89% of respondents with theft and violence seen by 88% of users.

Self-harming was also reported to be common, with 61% saying they’d seen it happen and 39% saying they themselves have self-harmed whilst in emergency accomodation.

PastedImage-12976 Source: Dublin Inquirer

Other findings focused on the impact staying in hostels had on the physical and mental health of users.

The survey found that 81% of those who responded said it had either a negative or very negative impact on their physical health and that 86% felt the same about their mental health.

Emergency beds in homeless hostels are generally reserved by calling a freephone number for the Central Placement Service but the system does not offer much certainty.

PastedImage-39624 Source: Dublin Inquirer

The survey sought to look at the experiences of those using the freephone number and found that it most likely takes three or four calls to secure a bed.

Almost one in ten (9%) respondents said it can take an average of seven calls to get a bed for the night and that sometimes none are available this way.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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