The CEO of the Dublin Simon Community says he’s never seen the homeless situation in the capital so grim.
Its annual report shows wait times for the charity’s detox service increased by 68 percent in the past 12 months - a 120 percent increase in the past three years.
The Dublin Simon Community worked with over 6,600 people in 2021 and prevented 2 and half thousand people from becoming homelessness.
It also increased its housing stock by 3 percent, in response to the urgent need for accommodation in Dublin.
The report found waiting times for mental health and detox services have increased by 68% and 13% respectively as demand continues to grow, 75% of those presenting to Dublin Simon’s clinical services are presenting for the first time with physical health & addiction issues, 68% of those accessing Sure Steps Counselling are first-time presenters, the number of people accessing education & employability services increased by 62% in 2021, 44% of Detox clients have been homeless for over five years, and Dublin Simon increased its property stock by 3% in response to the urgent need for accommodation.
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, says: "It’s all waiting - waiting, waiting, waiting every day.
"For a phone call, for a referral, for confirmation you have somewhere to sleep that night. And that’s not even anywhere near the stage of moving into a home.
"When you go into emergency accommodation you soon learn that nothing moves quickly in this system and it’s all out of your control.
"It wears you down.”
CEO Sam McGuinness says: "Our figures show the frightening reality that while the homelessness crisis is gathering pace, the people trying desperately to exit from it are spending a lot of time standing still, waiting for move on options, waiting for accommodation, waiting for essential healthcare and treatment supports.
"Homelessness has become a waiting game, and these people are running out of time.
"An overwhelming sense of being “stuck” was reported 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.
"In my nearly 20 years as CEO of Dublin Simon Community, the situation today is the grimmest I have ever seen.
"We worked with a total of 6,602 people last year across our services and not one of them should have to be in this situation. I remember a time when people spent a couple of months in emergency accommodation before moving on to a long-term home.
"Today, we have such an overwhelming number of people stuck in the emergency accommodation system that we could be facing the real prospect of people being stuck on the street."
The Dublin Simon 2021 Annual Review also revealed the rapidly increasing demand for detox and counselling services among the homeless population, which is outpacing the capacity for services in the capital.
Over the last three years, waiting times for Dublin Simon detox and counselling services have increased by 120% and 130% respectively. Of 408 Sure Steps Counselling clients in 2021, 20% were on the waiting list for over 60 days, as the service managed a series of increasingly complex cases.
Among the top support needs reported by those residing in Dublin Simon Community Emergency Accommodation in 2021 were Drug Use (24%), Mental Health (22%), Physical Health (11%), Alcohol Use (9%).
In 2021, 75% of those presenting to Dublin Simon Community Clinical Services (Detox, Bloodborne Virus Unit, Step-Up Step-Down and Primary Care) were presenting for the first time. This percentage has grown consistently over the last five years, with new clients accounting for just 39% in 2017. Of those who attended Dublin Simon Detox services in 2021, 44% were homeless for more than five years.
In 2021, 68% of Sure Steps Counselling clients were presenting to the service for the first time, compared with 64% in 2020. Among the highest reported primary reasons for referral to the service in 2021 were Depression (13%), Anxiety/Panic Attacks (6%), Addiction Recovery (6%) and Past Trauma (6%).