Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has called on the Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan to be more proactive in providing drug-free accommodation for those accessing homelessness support accommodation to help them stay clear of chronic substance use and to assist them from falling into a further spiral of dependency.
Speaking after a session of Statements on Drug and Alcohol Services, Homelessness, and Covid-19 in the Dáil this morning, Teachta Crowe said:
“The homeless support system that the Minister has described to me this morning is far cry from my experience, particularly the wraparound supports that are supposedly available to those who suffer from problematic substance use that find themselves homeless. I say that not to be scoring political points, but maybe with the hope that the Minister moves beyond the rhetoric and looks at the real challenges that are facing so many people in these circumstances.
“We’re talking about people who I would describe them as ‘adults at risk’, who find themselves homeless. They might be on a drug or alcohol program, might even be drug or alcohol free if they’re lucky, and trying to desperately change their lives and those around them.
“Some of them might be coming out of jail, full of hope, good intentions, determined to change their life around, not repeat past mistakes, but what happens to that homeless person, that adult at risk?
“If they’re lucky, they’re offered a couch or a bed, stay with friends or whatever, but the majority of single men it’s the hostel route. The first challenge is to get a bed, but you’re not given any choice about that bed and you are more than likely to be put into an environment of active drug users, chronic alcohol use. A system by its very nature that is set up basically from the start to see you fail in your attempts to stay drug and alcohol free.
“That’s the point I want to make here this morning. The odds are stacked against anyone that’s going into hostel accommodation to stay off drugs. In many cases, though not all, you are going into an environment of very active intimidation. So, if you find yourself going into dormitory-style accommodation and those around you are injecting or taking drugs or smoking whatever, it’s very difficult for that individual to say no or not partake.
“It’s even more difficult impossible even if those who are placed in that environment have had a background or had difficulties in the past with drugs and alcohol.
“So, what I’m saying is that the idea of wraparound services and supports for I would say the majority of those trapped in homelessness is a fantasy and does not exist
“Ask people who are sleeping rough tonight. I’ve seen enough of them coming in here this morning, sleeping in parks and shop doorways.
“And what they will all say to you is that they feel scared and frightened. They feel intimidated going into homeless hostels. We are spending an absolute fortune in taxpayers’ money on the homeless situation and rightly so, but we’re also putting many adults at risk and in the current system in added danger
“What I’m asking for and appealing to the Minister this morning is to intervene, to become more active, to be more supportive, be a champion, a voice for all those homeless people who want something different, a real choice and support.
“Surely it cannot be beyond our ability as a society to be able to place homeless individuals, adults at risk, who have had a history of dependency and substance issues into a hostel that is a drug and alcohol-free environment, if they so wish.”