Warning to protect ‘vulnerable’ as lockdown ends

by Gazette Reporter

HOMELESS and addiction services in Dublin are calling for supports and treatment capacity to be urgently expanded as we exit lockdown.

Merchants Quay Ireland, Coolmine and Depaul have jointly published a report entitled ‘Dealing with Covid-19 and Beyond’ to highlight their concerns.

The study found that reduced residential rehab services during the pandemic have had a “significant impact” on people’s drug use and mental health.

Experts are also predicting an increase in polysubstance use with a prevalence of alcohol and non-prescribed medication.

And they warn of dire consequences for the homeless if a second wave of the virus hits later in the year if the supports put in place in March are removed.

Paula Byrne, chief executive of MQI, said: “We provide vital, often lifesaving services for the most vulnerable people in society.

“As we face changed economic circumstances in the future, it is vital that the new Government continues to fund those services and invest in helping people who use drugs to recover and build lives for themselves.”

The three organisations have come together for the first time such is their concern for the future – and they want the Government to prolong the use of hotels for homeless people.

They also call for a structured exit plan for those in cocooning facilities, access to healthcare and continued access to opioid substitute treatments.

Depaul chief executive David Carroll said: “It is essential that as we start to return to a ‘new normal’ that we continue the positive steps that have been made around the health of those who are homeless.

“We know that there is the possibility of a ‘second wave’ of the virus later in the year – for that reason, the existing provision of apartments and hotel rooms should continue for the rest of the year, with people moved into long-term sustainable homes as quickly as possible.”  

The report recommends focusing housing resources to support households, and in particular “vulnerable single people” until at least the end of this year.

It also warns against allowing those in cocooning facilities to drift back into homelessness and sleeping rough – and giving them continued access to healthcare.

Coolmine’s Pauline McKeown urged: “Covid-19 has brought out the best in us… Let’s provide a better future for all our citizens, including those suffering the most.” 

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