A quarter of people accessing Depaul’s services have reported struggles with substance use

Depaul assisted 439 people in Cork last year

Last year, the homeless charity Depaul provided assistance to 439 people at its St Vincent's emergency accommodation facility in Cork according to its annual report.

Nationally, 14 babies were born into its services, and in just 12 months there has been a 60% increase in the number of families supported by the charity.

The number of homeless children they support also doubled from 822 to 1,647.

The report highlighted how children in particular, are impacted negatively by homelessness.

“Those who have experienced homelessness are more likely to experience developmental delays, have health problems, go hungry and have higher rates of depression, anxiety and behaviour disorders than other children,” it said.

The report also found that the housing crisis is increasing the risk of intergenerational homelessness.

“Generations of families in homelessness is a common occurrence throughout homeless services. Many of our service users have parents and grandparents who have experienced homelessness or who are currently homeless. Homelessness is closely connected to declines in physical health, mental health and a reduced life expectancy.”

The report shows that access to affordable housing and early interventions such as mitigating the risk of child homelessness is key to breaking the cycle of generational homelessness.

“The age of people in temporary accommodation is getting younger and day to day, we see the consequences of what happens if we don’t intervene early enough,” the report said.

Depaul also helped people with chronic addictions and challenging behaviours, and almost 40% of service users were aged 18-30.

A quarter of people accessing the charity's services have reported struggles with substance use.

De Paul staff saved 202 lives by administering Naloxone, a medication used to reduce or reverse the effects of opioids.

Speaking of the need for additional health supports for people in homeless services who are experiencing addiction issues, Dermot Murphy, Depaul’s Director of Services & Development said: “Homelessness is both stigmatising and isolating and can be a cause and consequence of substance use disorders.

“Our experience is that people in homelessness have experienced trauma in their life and additional mental health and addiction support are crucial for this cohort. We are seeing younger people with complex health needs presenting to our services and this comes with additional support needs,” he said.

“Wrap-around support is essential for this particular cohort - ensuring that the right services are implemented at the right time. We know from experience that having services and people in the background has been shown to support service users when they stop using alcohol or drugs.

“It’s a reassurance for them. Services can step in to prevent crises from occurring and we can mediate and advocate on their behalf when issues arise.”

Dermot Murphy also called for the immediate roll-out of medically supervised injection centres for all who require it.

“Supervised injecting rooms save people’s lives, take injecting off the streets and would alleviate the burden on frontline workers.

“Our service users have reported feeling ‘shame’ and feeling ‘dirty’ when injecting drugs on the streets and would welcome a safer and more dignified environment,” he said.