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'Grimmest situation I've ever seen': Dublin Simon dealing with unprecedented levels of homelessness

‘The present thing for homeless people is they are without hope. It’s despair. It’s exhaustion,’ he said.

Dublin Simon outreach workers in the city centre
Dublin Simon outreach workers in the city centre
Image: Dublin Simon

Updated Sep 22nd 2022, 2:48 PM

THE LAUNCH OF Dublin Simon’s  Community Annual Review for 2021 has found that the wait times for its detox and counselling services have increased considerably as the charity copes with unprecedented levels of homelessness.

CEO of Dublin Simon, Sam McGuinness, who has been with the homelessness charity for almost two decades said that “the situation today is the grimmest I have ever seen.”

Speaking at the launch of the report today, which found that Dublin Simon supported 6,602 people last year, McGuinness told The Journal :

“In the last 12 months, the numbers of homeless people have gone up nationally by 30% and in Dublin by 38%.”

“We need more than the government’s target of 25,000 homes. Over the last 10 years, we were only delivering between 10 and 15,000. Now to get up to 25,000 is a goal. But actually, we need more than that. We need 40,000 or 50,000. If we were able to get there from 2001 to 2008, we have to find out how we can get there now.”

2,564 adults and children were prevented from falling into homelessness or supported in moving out of homelessness by Dublin Simon in 2021.

McGuinness said that that one of the biggest things the government could do combat homelessness would be to streamline health funding for homeless people.

“I’d like to see a minister in the Department of Health focused on homelessness and homeless health and what can we do to help them and the same in the Department of Environment and the Department of Housing. So there needs to be one person in there that is looking at this over time,” he said.

However he wasn’t overly optimistic that Tuesday’s budget would have any measures to ease the homelessness crisis:

“It’s going to be about the cost of living, the expense of things and inflation I think that  we won’t be way up there in terms of their priorities.  And we have made submissions for the budget as we always do. But someone in government would need to pay a lot more attention.”

He added that young people frequently say that they will never find a home but although it’d incredibly expensive and difficult, they will find one eventually.

“There’s hope for them. The present thing for homeless people is they are without hope. It’s despair. It’s exhaustion.”

The report noted that increased demand for their homelessness services has meant that wait times to access counselling increased from 22 days to 37 between 2020 and 2021, while the wait for detox services went from 76 to 86 days in the same period.

Over the last three years, waiting times for Dublin Simon detox and counselling services have increased by 120% and 130% respectively

The report also noted that of those who attended Dublin Simon Detox services in 2021, 44% were homeless for more than five years. 

An overwhelming sense of being “stuck” was reported by Dublin Simon across all services from emergency accommodation to detox and recovery, with the lack of move-on options identified as a significant risk in triggering relapse. 

Also speaking at the report’s launch was Dublin Simon resident Ken Eivers, who reflected on his own time in homelessness and the effects of the homelessness system on the vulnerable people within it: 

“I knew people trying to access essential services and waiting a long time to get treatment and now they’re dead from overdoses. The help should be there but it’s not.”

He added that he’d like to see significant investment in homeless accommodation in next week’s budget because many of the current dormitory-style hostels for homeless people are not safe.

“They need to give people separate rooms because it’s a disaster when four, six, eight people are in the same room and some of them could have mental health issues. They need the dignity and to be able to lock their things away. I know why some people choose to sleep on the street because the hostels aren’t safe.”

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