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Homelessness

47 people using or known to homeless services died in the Dublin area last year

The Council confirmed the figures do not include deaths in long-term accommodation, Housing First or visiting support teams.

NEW FIGURES SHOW 47 people using or known to homeless services died in the Dublin area last year – fewer than in the previous year but still “unacceptably high” according to the person now charged with helping to review how those deaths occurred. 

Dublin City Council said the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) had been notified of the deaths of 45 people experiencing homelessness in 2022, in addition to two deaths reported of non-service users. That marks a decrease from the comparable figure for 2021 of 64 deaths and four deaths of non-service users, and is also slightly lower than the total of 49 deaths notified in 2020. 

Dublin City Council said significant efforts had been made in recent years to reduce the number of deaths of homeless people, including all emergency accommodation now being provided on a 24-hour basis with meals, and in-reach primary care, including addiction services, provided by two HSE dedicated teams.

A spokesperson for the Council said: “In partnership with the DRHE, the HSE is running a training programme for staff in Private Emergency Accommodation.

“The HSE is appointing a co-ordinator to review deaths in homeless services from a health perspective and to continue the implementation of recommendations in the Dr [Austin] O’Carroll report on deaths.”

Dr O’Carroll, HSE clinical lead for the Dublin Covid-19 homeless response, had previously been commissioned by the DRHE to review the mortality of people experiencing homelessness during 2020 and he confirmed he will now be tasked with helping to coordinate the review. 

Dr O’Carroll said it would be a “non-blame” environment with the aim of getting anyone who was involved in the provision of services to someone who died to participate in the review of what happened, and if it could have been prevented. 

“Everyone decides what happened, was there anything that could have been done better, was there anything that could have supported them,” he said. 

Dr O’Carroll, a founder of SafetyNet Primary Care, which provides medical assistance to people in homelessness, said some themes had emerged in recent years when it came to deaths, including substance abuse, accidents and a higher rate of certain conditions, such as COPD and heart disease, where homelessness may be a contributory factor. 

“It is still unacceptably high, no doubt it is unacceptably high, but you also have to factor in more people are in homelessness, you also need to look at deaths versus number of people in homelessness,” Dr O’Carroll said of the number of deaths in 2022.

Louisa Santoro, CEO of the Mendicity Institution, said she believed the figure on the number of deaths did not reflect the overall number of people who died in homelessness and Dublin City Council confirmed that the figures do not include deaths in long-term accommodation, Housing First or visiting support teams.

The local authority said the exclusion of those numbers was due to the recommendation of the Mortality Report in the Single Homeless Population 2020 and so “no longer includes deaths in tenancies as deaths of persons experiencing homelessness”.

Santoro said the official figure was “low” and that more research was needed on the impact on homeless adults of living in a chaotic environment, such as emergency accommodation.

Regarding the number of deaths referred to by Dublin City Council and notified to the HSE she said: “Not all homeless services are asked”.

“We need to be counting people in so we have as large a pool of information as possible,” she added.

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