“It’s All Waiting. Waiting, Waiting, Waiting Every Day. It Wears You Down”
Dublin Simon Community releases 2021 Annual Review warning long waiting times in exiting homelessness & accessing treatment are having a deep and lasting impact on physical & mental health
• Waiting times for mental health and detox services have increased by 68% and 13% respectively as demand continues to grow
• 75% of those presenting to Dublin Simon’s clinical services are presenting for the first time with physical health & addiction issues
• 68% of those accessing Sure Steps Counselling are first-time presenters
• The number of people accessing our education & employability services increased by 62% in 2021
• 44% of Detox clients have been homeless for over five years
• Dublin Simon increased its property stock by 3% in response to the urgent need for accommodation
• Expanded Primary Nurse Care team responding to demand with additional nursing capacity, facilitating huge growth in interventions from 180 in 2020 to 1,080 in 2021
Dublin, 22 September 2022: Dublin Simon Community CEO, Sam McGuinness today released details of the charity’s 2021 Annual Review with a warning that long waiting periods to exit emergency accommodation and access treatment is taking its toll on the mental and physical health of the homeless population. People are losing hope as homelessness figures continue to rise.
Speaking at the launch was Dublin Simon resident Ken Ivers, who reflected on his own time in homelessness and the effects of the homelessness system on the vulnerable people within it:
“It’s all waiting – waiting, waiting, waiting every day. For a phone call, for a referral, for confirmation you have somewhere to sleep that night. And that’s not even anywhere near the stage of moving into a home. When you go into emergency accommodation you soon learn that nothing moves quickly in this system and it’s all out of your control. It wears you down.”
Commenting on the report, CEO Sam McGuinness said:
“Our figures show the frightening reality that while the homelessness crisis is gathering pace, the people trying desperately to exit from it are spending a lot of time standing still, waiting for move on options, waiting for accommodation, waiting for essential healthcare and treatment supports. Homelessness has become a waiting game, and these people are running out of time.”
Stuck in Homelessness
An overwhelming sense of being “stuck” was reported across all services from emergency accommodation to detox and recovery, with the lack of move-on options identified as a significant risk in triggering relapse. The chronic and ongoing lack of accessible one and two bed properties across the country has led to a situation which Mr McGuinness refers to as “the grimmest I have ever seen”.
“In my nearly 20 years as CEO of Dublin Simon Community, the situation today is the grimmest I have ever seen. We worked with a total of 6,602 people last year across our services and not one of them should have to be in this situation. I remember a time when people spent a couple of months in emergency accommodation before moving on to a long-term home. Today, we have such an overwhelming number of people stuck in the emergency accommodation system that we could be facing the real prospect of people being stuck on the street. As a frontline service provider, we are still operating within Covid restrictions across our services which is stretching our capacity even further.”
“We are dealing with more complex cases than we have ever encountered. Some have multiple addictions and some have severe mental and physical health issues. These people are exhausted from weathering what life is throwing at them from all angles; the diminishing prospect of exiting homelessness, decreased access to vital services, two years of worldwide anxiety and isolation, rising inflation and the strain that all these things put on families and relationships. This exhaustion is visible in every area of our work. We saw it among the 5,225 contacts made by the Outreach team over the year and it was palpable among the 439 people who accessed our emergency accommodation services. Our teams are working extremely hard to ensure that those who are currently housed stay out of this situation, evidenced by the 2,564 people supported through our tenancy sustainment teams during 2021.”
The Dublin Simon 2021 Annual Review also revealed the rapidly increasing demand for detox and counselling services among the homeless population, which is outpacing the capacity for services in the capital.
Over the last three years, waiting times for Dublin Simon detox and counselling services have increased by 120% and 130% respectively. Of 408 Sure Steps Counselling clients in 2021, 20% were on the waiting list for over 60 days, as the service managed a series of increasingly complex cases.
Commenting on the growing waiting lists, Head of Clinical Governance Majella Darcy referred to “the danger this poses to people already in crisis as they desperately try to retain their motivation to seek treatment,” calling for increased capacity in services to meet spiralling demand.
Physical & Mental Health Impact
Commenting on the increasingly devastating physical and mental health impact of long-term homelessness, Ms Darcy said:
“A person is homeless until they can close their own front door behind them. The longer they wait for that to happen, the worse their mental health and physical health becomes in the long-term. The less likely they will still have the physical and mental capacity to do that when the time comes. This is the tragic reality for a record number of our people.”
Among the top support needs reported by those residing in Dublin Simon Community Emergency Accommodation in 2021 were Drug Use (24%), Mental Health (22%), Physical Health (11%), Alcohol Use (9%).
The growing physical and mental health impact of homelessness was demonstrated by the increasing number of new presenters to Dublin Simon Community clinical and mental health services.
Commenting on this worrying trend, Mr McGuinness said:
In 2021, 75% of those presenting to Dublin Simon Community Clinical Services (Detox, Bloodborne Virus Unit, Step-Up Step-Down and Primary Care) were presenting for the first time. This percentage has grown consistently over the last five years, with new clients accounting for just 39% in 2017. Of those who attended Dublin Simon Detox services in 2021, 44% were homeless for more than five years.
In 2021, 68% of Sure Steps Counselling clients were presenting to the service for the first time, compared with 64% in 2020. Among the highest reported primary reasons for referral to the service in 2021 were Depression (13%), Anxiety/Panic Attacks (6%), Addiction Recovery (6%) and Past Trauma (6%).
Annual Report 2021
Key impact statistics from the Annual Report 2021 include:
• The charity supported 6,602 people across a broad range of frontline and support services
• Our Outreach team had 5,225 contacts throughout the year
• 2,564 adults and children were prevented from falling into homelessness or supported in moving out of homelessness and into homes through prevention and settlement
• 857 people are living in long-term accommodation with Dublin Simon Community
• 633 people were housed through Dublin Simon independent housing
• 859 people accessed treatment and healthcare services
• 3,446 hours of counselling and crisis interventions delivered through Sure Steps Counselling
• 91,120 hours invested in key-working directly with clients to help improve their outcomes
• 32,691 hours were contributed by volunteers
• More than 340,000 meals were served to our clients and residents throughout the year
Reflecting & Looking Forward
Chairman of the Dublin Simon Community Board, Diarmuid McNamee, shared his heartfelt thanks with the frontline workers who continued to dedicate their lives to this vital cause in 2021.
“I would like to thank the staff of Dublin Simon Community for their service and sense of duty throughout 2021 in delivering essential supports to our clients and residents in what have been the most challenging circumstances in our over 50 years of service provision.”
Mr McNamee also extended his thanks to retiring CEO Sam McGuinness, who, the Chairman announced, plans to retire from Dublin Simon Community the end of December, after almost 20 years of service.
“I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Sam for his leadership of Dublin Simon Community. Throughout his tenure, Sam has steered the organisation through the most challenging times the organisation has ever seen; a recession, a pandemic and a recurring homeless crisis that continues to spiral and escalate.”
Mr McNamee added:
“No one organisation can solve this crisis alone. But, what one organisation can do, as Sam’s leadership has shown, is use its expertise to identify the most urgent gaps and pitfalls within the wider system and focus on filling these with creative solutions. Sam’s legacy will be felt across the organisation but perhaps most notable in the 100-bed detox and recovery facility currently under construction at Usher’s Island. Thanks to Sam’s vision and determination, thousands more vulnerable people will have access to a lifeline, suitable accommodation and essential medical support. I hope you will all join me in thanking Sam and wishing him well in his retirement.”
Following this announcement, Mr McNamee introduced incoming CEO Catherine Kenny, who will assume her new role from October 1st.
“I would like to introduce and welcome incoming CEO Catherine Kenny, our current Head of Property & Quality in Dublin Simon Community, who has dedicated her life to working in the homelessness sector since she started out on the Dublin Simon frontline over 20 years ago. Catherine comes to this role with a wealth of experience at leadership level in the housing and homelessness services having held a number of management positions in Dublin Simon Community and Chaired the Dublin Homeless Network. I wish Catherine the very best in her new role and look forward to supporting her.”