By R W Glynn, E Lynn, E Griffin, M Fitzgerald, M Ward
This work aims to contribute to the evidence base regarding the health of those who experience homelessness in Ireland by collating data on methadone use, drug-related deaths and emergency department presentations due to self-harm. Data from the Central Methadone Treatment List (CTL), National Self-Harm Registry Ireland and the National Drug-Related Deaths Index were analysed. The percentage on the CTL registered as being of no fixed abode (NFA) or homeless increased from 2% to 7% from 2011-2014. The absolute number of presentations with deliberate self-harm from those of NFA increased by 49% from 2007-2014. The number of drug-related deaths amongst those of NFA or homeless and who died in Dublin fluctuated from 2004-13 with an overall upward trend. There is an urgent need to adequately resource and coordinate those services which aim to address factors (social and health inequalities, mental ill-health and addiction) which lead people into – and prevent them exiting from - homelessness.
In 2011, the Programme for Government committed to end long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough. These goals were to be achieved by building on the 2008 National Strategy entitled The Way Home: A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness in Ireland1. A ‘housing first’ approach was promised in which the provision of suitable, affordable accommodation for people at risk of homelessness was to be prioritised. In 2013, the Government, in their Homeless Policy Statement, promised to end long-term homelessness by 20162.The situation has deteriorated since 2013. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) reported that 4,006 adults accessed emergency accommodation in the third quarter (Q3) of 20163. Of these, 17% were presenting for the first time - an average of 7.3 new people presenting per day over that period. The number of individuals accessing emergency accommodation increased by 20% in the 12 months to Q3 2016 and by 63% over the past two years3. In November 2016 it was reported that there were over one thousand families and over two thousand children homeless in Dublin – a 44% increase in just one year.