Irish News

Housing crisis sustains drug and alcohol addictions

Tony Geoghegan

There is a vicious cycle between drugs and homelessness said the CEO of Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), as even those who successfully complete detox are then tempted by drug users in emergency accommodation.

Tony Geoghegan spoke at the launch of MQI’s Annual Review for 2016 this week, in which they revealed almost 10,000 people dealing with mental health issues, addiction and homelessness availed of their services.

Mr Geoghegan told The Irish Catholic that there is an unprecedented level of homelessness “with over 7,000 people in emergency accommodation”, and with so many homeless families, people that are single and face a plethora of issues including addiction “get sifted down to the bottom”.

They then end up becoming the visible face of drugs and homelessness that people see on the street. He said there is an interplay between drugs and homelessness as one perpetuates the other.

“For those people who, against the odds, actually do make it into drug treatment they can go right through residential detoxification rehabilitation, maybe be up to six months drug free, and come out of treatment to nothing,” Mr Geoghegan said.

“They go back into emergency accommodation, which runs the very real risks of undermining all the progress and positive gains that they’ve made in their life.”

He added the biggest call MQI are making to the government is to make sure people that leave drug treatment are not without a home.

MQI provided 117,398 meals in 2016, an increase of 20% compared to 2015, and 2,022 people who would have ended up on the streets used the emergency shelter provided in their Night Café.

Their residential detoxification and drug-free rehabilitation programmes were in strong demand, with 186 admissions across the services in 2016, 114 people completed the rehabilitation programmes, almost half of them were homeless.

Steven went into detoxification on MQI’s St Francis Farm after being homeless, and is now drug-free, he is studying Psychology in Trinity College Dublin.

He told the paper that it was the way people responded “as if there was nothing wrong with me” that made such a big difference.

“The idea I had of myself I think was probably driving what I thought how other people perceived me,” he said.

“I don’t recognise myself today, sometimes I get up and I’m not sure what’s happened. Who I was and what I do now; in the space of three years such drastic changes have taken place it’s hard to keep up.”