By Claire McSweeney, Senior Manager for Emergency Services at Dublin Simon Community
Dublin Simon Community runs four emergency accommodation facilities in Dublin on behalf of the DRHE. All four of these fall within the “STA” category or “supported temporary accommodation”, with “support” being the key focus in our day-to-day operation of these services. Our STAs provide food and wrap around support for up to six months for men, women and couples who are experiencing homelessness. They are open 24/7 and are fully staffed by experienced professionals who work to move clients out of homelessness and empower them to sustain appropriate long-term accommodation. Each of our clients receives one-to-one support from a keyworker, who helps them to address issues which may act as barriers to exiting homelessness by providing practical advice, goal-setting and referral to external services. Clients may also access the free Dublin Simon Community counselling service provided by accredited mental health professionals, to help them cope with and move through underlying trauma. Our STAs provide personal development and social activities on-site and have strong links to other agencies and local community services, for example, Safetynet Primary Care, Merchants Quay Ireland and Foundations Project.
Emergency accommodation, as the name suggests, is a place people come to when they are in crisis. Many of the clients in our STAs have been supported out of rough sleeping by our skilled Dublin Outreach team*, who build strong relationships with our clients on the streets and work hard to place each individual in an STA best suited to their needs. All clients have experienced the undeniable trauma of homelessness, with many also experiencing addiction, physical and/or mental health issues. The low-threshold accessibility of our STAs is driven by the inclusive and supportive approach we have taken to homeless services since 1969. The qualifications and regular training our staff receive are absolutely vital in providing the best possible care and a safe and welcoming environment to vulnerable adults, often with complex needs, who are experiencing homelessness. We also accommodate clients’ dogs at our STAs where we can. We operate within high quality organisational health and safety systems and neighbourhood policies. We have received the eQuass European quality standard which certifies our client-focused approach, our awareness of clients’ rights, the involvement and empowerment of clients in our services and our promotion of quality of life (https://equass.be/index.php/certif-system).
The purpose of an STA is to provide short-term stays for people experiencing homelessness, where they can stabilise their situation and receive the vital one-to-one and wraparound supports they need to move out of homelessness and into a home. They are busy places, not designed for long term and sometimes require clients to share a bedroom with another person. What we are witnessing at present is a bottleneck effect in our STAs, where clients have no choice but to remain for longer than intended, due to the current shortage of affordable long-term accommodation. This lack is particularly prevalent in the one-bed unit category for singles and couples. While our staff work hard to create comfortable and homely environments in our STAs, STAs are not homes, and the inadequate supply of social and affordable housing is keeping the most vulnerable in our society in a constant state of emergency.
*in partnership with the DRHE.