Dublin: Homeless People Afflicted By Addiction and Ill Health: Report

3 Oct

Report highlights ill health suffered by homeless people

DEPRESSION, dental decay and the threat to health from alcohol and drug use feature heavily among homeless people, almost half of whom suffer from both physical and mental ill health, according to a report.

To add to their tragedy, members of the homeless community are plagued by a range of conditions, including hepatitis, arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure.

Nor are they faring well mentally: the survey shows out of 600 people surveyed by Simon Communities of Ireland, more than one third suffer from depression, while schizophrenia, panic attacks, bipolar disorder and social anxiety disorders feature in up to 10%.

Among the other alarming findings of the National Health Snapshot study, published today to mark the start of Simon Week, are:

* 50% used alcohol, of whom 44% reported health complications as a result.

* 31% used drugs (more than half intravenously) causing abscesses, hepatitis C and B, vein collapse, overdose and deep vein thrombosis.

* More than three quarters using drugs used one or more types of drugs (polydrug use), with heroin the most popular (58%), followed by cannabis, prescribed methadone, unprescribed benzodiazepines and headshop drugs.

* 12% had a diagnosed intellectual disability, most commonly attention deficit disorder and autism.

* 19% self-harmed, almost one quarter expressed suicidal thoughts and 17% attempted suicide in the previous six months.

Niamh Randall, Simon’s national research and policy manager, said the results showed an ongoing need for targeted interventions for the homeless as well as better access to mainstream services.

“For instance in Cork, we have a multidisciplinary team which can address a multitude of needs at the same time.

“Or in Dublin, we have Safetynet, a primary care network where GPs come to the hostels and provide primary care intervention on site, which, when you are homeless, provides a point of contact for people who might not necessarily show up at a surgery.”

Ms Randall said there had been no decrease in the 5,000 people using Simon’s services in the past couple of years and the challenge was to maintain services in the face of decreased funding from the Department of Health.

The stark findings of today’s report come hot on the heels of two reports published last week which found Dublin Simon recorded a 26% increase on last year in the number of people sleeping rough during the early summer months and Merchants Quay Ireland said it was providing 1,100 extra meals every week for mainly homeless and financially desperate people, up 26% on last year.

* The Simon National Conference, Health and Homelessness — Making the Link, takes place today at the Radisson BLU Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin.

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