Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 19 May 2016
Committee on Housing and Homelessness
If members or witnesses have a mobile phone or 3G or 4G device, it should be either switched off or put into flight mode. Apart from disrupting the meeting, the signal may interfere with the broadcast signal.
I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. The opening statement submitted by the witnesses will be published on the committee website after this meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I am pleased to welcome the representatives from Tiglin Challenge, Mr. Aubrey McCarthy, Mr. Phil Thompson and Mr. Niall Murphy. The full submission has been received and circulated to members. I understand Mr. McCarthy has an opening statement and I will invite colleagues to ask a number of questions arising from that. Mr. McCarthy's colleagues should feel free to enter the discussion at any stage, as they are more than welcome to do so.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
On behalf of the board of Tiglin and on my own behalf, I express appreciation to the committee for inviting us to meet today. As the Chairman mentioned, I am accompanied by the chief executive officer, Mr. Philip Thompson, and a former service user, Mr. Niall Murphy. The board and management of Tiglin very much welcome the work of this committee and I have been following it on the Oireachtas television channel. It is encouraging to see it.
At the outset, I must point out that Tiglin deals with a particular cohort of the homeless population. We operate a homeless outreach café known as the No Bucks café. Some members are aware of our work and the café can be seen around town. It is a big green coach converted to a café-restaurant type of idea. On Monday it can be found in Dún Laoghaire, on Tuesday it is Ballymun, on Wednesday it is in Bray, and I drive on Thursday and Friday nights, when it is on O'Connell Street, right beside the Spire. It is interesting to point out that 78% of service users who present to the No Bucks café and to our walking teams in the city have some form of addiction. With our clients, it seems that homelessness and addiction go hand in hand. Sometimes, homelessness can bring about addiction and sometimes addiction can bring about homelessness. It is also interesting that the café goes out in the evenings and that, therefore, we are dealing with a cohort of people - perhaps rough sleepers, etc. - which has not been catered for.
Tiglin also operates residential centres for both men and women. We have a residential centre for men in Tiglin, Ashford, County Wicklow, and a women's centre in Brittas Bay. A total of 72%, three out of four, of the Tiglin residents have experienced homelessness during their addiction. When a person we meet on the street goes through detox and is referred through various referrals, which our CEO will explain later, and comes to the centre we put them through a quite rigorous 14-module programme. The longevity is quite important. It is all in Tiglin, which is up in the Wicklow Mountains. It is a special place. We then have a step-down approach, which includes transitional housing.
Fr. Peter McVerry and other campaigners have said for years that it is a widely accepted fact that rehabilitation will solve the addiction problems of individuals. We know from listening to the people who have made presentations to this committee that housing is an obvious way to solve the homelessness problem. However, for those whose addiction has bound them into homelessness, residential rehabilitation becomes a necessary and successful exit pathway as it addresses the areas that tied them to a homeless lifestyle. While everybody who is homeless is clearly not in addiction and residential treatment is not necessary for every person in addiction, Tiglin has found that when a service user is bound by both homelessness and addiction the best way to solve it is through residential rehabilitation care. This cohort of people must be removed from their surroundings to attain a chance of getting clean and sober. Our experience has shown that the longer one keeps the individual who is homeless and addicted engaged, the better the outcome.
Tiglin is not out to solve the homelessness problem, but we are interested in helping those people who come to us for our service. Motivation, determination and people who take an interest and believe in the person are just a few of the many factors that are stimuli for entering into a sober life. Imagine being without the security of a home and a family, perhaps in poor health and perhaps with a scarred history due to one's addiction. How would one's determination hold up? The people we deal with do not know where they will sleep each night, whether they will be safe, whether they will make their methadone appointment in the morning or whether they will overdose on their next hit. Imagine what would inspire their motivation.
As we have seen in the committee's proceedings over the past number of weeks, homelessness has changed in recent years. Many people who are homeless have nothing to do with addiction. However, this committee was established because the situation has reached crisis point. Hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation and so forth have been filled because of the great need. Many of the people who are using those services work and have a good social structure around them, but the rising rental market has priced them out of it and the supply has not met demand. Imagine, then, how the doubly disadvantaged are affected by this situation. By "doubly disadvantaged" I mean people who are homeless and also have some form of life-controlling problem or addiction. While they are entitled to rent allowance, the obvious ravages of addiction and life on the streets are often clear to a landlord, so they are met with many excuses for not receiving the tenancy.
There are some who will obtain sobriety by an active care plan being put in place which provides housing, tenancy support and outpatient or day service rehabilitation. However, for the vast majority who are homeless and chronically addicted we believe strongly that inpatient residential support options are required. They must be removed from their surroundings and live in a sober community where professional skills such as counselling, therapy and medical interventions are addressed and educational opportunities are explored. I hope that some of the members will talk to Niall after my presentation and hear what worked for him. In Tiglin's experience, the great work of residential rehabilitation hinges on two main factors. One is that the person is properly prepared for drug-free rehabilitation. The second is that after the residential rehabilitation is completed, the residential after-care is in place to help the person step back into daily living. As part of that we also supply transitional housing.
We believe a full wrap-around service for two years is necessary in many of these situations in order to exit homelessness and addiction successfully.
This is exactly what we do at Tiglin. Tiglin is seeing people successfully exit homelessness through long-term rehabilitation and support housing after treatment. We partner with Wicklow County Council in offering a transitional house in Arklow for people who come from any accredited residential rehabilitation facility. It gives them a transitional house, so that they can take a step back into a sober lifestyle. We also offer transitional housing to 35 individuals in Greystones, which works very well. We have 30 male beds and 12 female beds for residential rehabilitation.
When I was preparing this presentation, I was thinking of people I could bring with me and I wrote down names. I came up with 140 names of individuals who have been homeless and in chaotic addiction but are now back in jobs, education, housing and have found new lives beyond addiction and homelessness. That is phenomenal and it is brilliant to be able to say it. Mr. Niall Murphy is the lucky one here today. He had been housed many times due to his homelessness but it was only when his addiction was finally addressed that his housing needs were catered for. He is now back in work after completing his education, is paying taxes, recently got married - so is more of a success in that respect than me at the moment - and he has obtained a mortgage for a new house. I hope members will be able to sense something of Mr. Murphy when he talks to them.
The solution I propose is very simple and I hope the committee will take it on board. The housing allowance that the homeless person is entitled to should be used in the rehabilitation treatment of that individual. Entitlements before treatment are not the same as entitlements during treatment. This proposal is for people who have an entitlement but are not able to access that entitlement for the duration of the treatment. If their partner is using that entitlement then they do not have an entitlement. The people concerned do not have the capacity to use their entitlement. Residential rehabilitation can be used if we give them the capacity to use it. If we do this, we then have a fighting chance of solving the homelessness and the addiction problem for that person.
I am delighted to say that 78% of people who exit Tiglin are sober today and are working, in education, on CE schemes, and so on. However, Tiglin, alongside Merchants Quay's St. Francis Farm facility,Coolmine and other places, does not qualify to accept rent allowance as it is classed as a rehabilitation institution. This means that if Niall Murphy, who is homeless and in addiction and is entitled to rent allowance, wishes to come in to the likes of Tiglin or any other rehabilitation centre, he loses this entitlement and the Tiglin staff have to fundraise, through bag-packing, marathons, etc., to raise the costs of his residential treatment, which is rather unfair.
It was clear at the time Mr. Murphy came in, as he will share with members, that he did not have the skills to take a home from the State. He was given housing by the State, but he was not able to keep that housing because his own addiction came first. He had an entitlement to a home but he had no home. People like him get the money to stay in a hotel, but if they go into a treatment centre they do not get the money. Is it realistic that a rehabilitation facility would voluntarily give accommodation to a person for up to a year without State support? The solution is clear: allow the individual to use that housing allowance, which is their entitlement, for their residential treatment. I do not mean that just in respect of Tiglin, but for all accredited residential rehabilitation centres. This costs the State not one cent extra and with us it would give a 78% chance of turning around this individual's life, so that homelessness and addiction are no longer an issue for that person.
Mr. Niall Murphy:
I fell into drug addiction when I was around 26 years of age. In the 1990s there was a rave scene in Dublin and I got caught up in it. I found that gradually over the years, the addiction turned very ugly. I tried to stop but I could not. The drug addiction progressed into harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. I was living in a house in Crumlin with three others but because of my addiction I was involved in a lot of anti-social behaviour. I was shoplifting from a local supermarket, leaving syringes around the house and so forth. The landlord found out about it and he kicked me out onto the street. That was where my homelessness started.
Obviously, when I became homeless, things got a lot more chaotic. During those years of homelessness I lived in homeless shelters and suffered many near-fatal overdoses. I remember being rushed to hospital in an ambulance at least six times during that period. There was a local centre run by Focus Ireland which helped homeless people and on a couple of occasions I went there. The centre had an information sheet with the names of landlords who would accept rent allowance. I got lucky at one stage and got a small bedsit in Terenure but I only lasted about five weeks there because the root issue was not being dealt with. I was still using drugs and it got to the stage where I could not pay my rent and I ended up homeless again. That happened again about a year later when I got a place in Rathgar. I lasted around the same amount of time there - four to five weeks - and ended up homeless again.
Eventually, I heard about the Tiglin programme in 2008. I went into Tiglin and did the 16-month programme. When I got to the end of the programme, Tiglin provided me with an after-care house where I lived for two years before moving back to living in society. I went to college in UCD for two years, got married and today I have a mortgage. I have all of that because I went through treatment. I could not get out of homelessness until I addressed my addiction problem. I did that in Tiglin and today everything is different. Everything has completely changed.
I thank Mr. Niall Murphy for his testimony. He is to be complimented on his success story, as are those in Tiglin who worked with him. It is very encouraging to hear his story. The first Deputy who has indicated is Deputy Durkan.
I welcome and congratulate our visitors. It is clear that they have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter with which they deal, and with which we all deal every day. They have an understanding of the issues which is exemplary and I congratulate them on their approach.
Does Tiglin have approved housing body status? As the Chairman knows, I am not a particular friend of the approved housing bodies-----
However, I am a strong supporter of the kind of support being provided by Tiglin. The situation with regard to rough sleepers cannot be resolved just by providing an emergency bed for one night at a time. There must be some continuity of care, as Tiglin has proven.
Has Tiglin reached a point where it cannot cope with the number of inquiries it receives? Has it assessed and quantified the need into the future? To what degree can Tiglin send on those clients who do not need ongoing treatment or residential care to the local authorities or approved housing bodies? How does Tiglin manage those clients who can survive, albeit with supervision? I also wish to ask about the manner in which Tiglin makes contact with its clients.
I would argue that Tiglin is uniquely suited to dealing with a specific niche in the market, not the whole housing requirement, that local authorities cannot deal with and have been incapable of dealing with simply because they are not geared towards doing it. I extend my appreciation to the centre for what it does because that is a crucial part of the market which needs to be dealt with and cannot be dealt with by groups other than people like those in Tiglin who specialise in that area.
I thank the witnesses for their presentations. I have worked with a number of clients from the facility in Brittas Bay post their departure and the housing needs of the constituency and they speak very highly of their time there. I wish to put three questions to the witnesses. First, does Tiglin receive any Government funding for its work? I am interested to know if it is in receipt of any State funding. Second, its proposal on rent supplement seems eminently sensible and the amount of money it would require from the State would be very small, given the small number of people we are talking about. Has Tiglin ever had a communication from the Department of Social Protection at a senior level or from the current or former Minister for Social Protection as to what the resistance would be? Again, it would seem to be an eminently sensible and affordable proposition and one I would support. Third, an issue I have encountered in the constituency, not unlike Mr. Niall Murphy's story, concerns people who are living through addiction and homelessness. They go into residential rehabilitation following which they are still homeless. The only emergency homeless accommodation or relatively low threshold emergency accommodation in, say, in Dublin city centre would have a relatively high volume of active drug use in the dormitory accommodation to which a person who has had a detox will not want to go. It forces them to sleep rough and creates another cycle. Have the witnesses any recommendations as to how that specific difficulty for people coming out of residential rehabilitation could be addressed that we could put to the Dáil and the Minister when we make our report?
Before I revert to Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Thompson, I remind Deputy Ó Broin that at the private session this morning we outlined the forthcoming witnesses for the next couple of weeks, one of which is the Department of Social Protection. The issue he has raised is one we may want to probe with it. I call Mr. McCarthy.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
In response to Deputy Durkan's question as to whether we are an approved housing body, organically we have grown into providing transitional housing, not because we ever wanted to but because people such as Mr. Niall Murphy, who have exited the programme, have found it difficult to get back on their feet. Wicklow County Council has approached us many times to take on a transitional house for them. In the meantime we have applied for housing approval to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. That is in train and is pending.
We had a graduation last week and one of the guys who graduated was homeless and lived on the beach in Wicklow. He told his story at the graduation. He said he went into Wicklow County Council and told those in the offices he had nowhere to go. He said he needed treatment, that he was in addiction but was homeless and Wicklow County Council telephoned Tiglin. Wicklow County Council saw that this guy could get help in Tiglin. When he came in, we had problems because he was very moody, as he said himself, and he did not want to fill in any forms. It turns out the guy was illiterate; he could not read or write. He was in addiction. He was in chaos. He stood up last Saturday and told his story. He is now pursuing a FETAC level six course. He told us all how his smart phone has changed his life. He is now texting and sending e-mails and so on. That has happened organically. Wicklow County Council and others have seen what we do and are there to support our application for transitional housing.
Mr. Phil Thompson:
Deputy Ó Broin asked if we get State funding. Approximately one third of our operational budget for the residential work at Tiglin comes mainly through two drug task forces. In recent years we have established links with the Department of Social Protection and have brought in community employment in two forms, in one of which we run a day service programme. I will come back to that because the Deputy mentioned other ways to help people as they exit treatment. The other arm of the community employment is in the residential component.
We are here to talk about homelessness, but that is tied into addiction in other ways. Mr. McCann referred to a guy coming in who had educational difficulties. Education and health are taken care of within the residential facility at Tiglin. Community employment has been a great way to upskill people, give them back confidence and help them to exit treatment with some form of a CV. We have also partnered with Carlow IT, which has brought an education element into our programme. People can leave Tiglin now with a level 6 qualification. It is a wraparound approach. Mr. McCann spoke of a two year wraparound service. The journey or rehabilitation starts the moment a person asks for help. That can start well outside the bounds of a residential treatment programme. It can start within the chaos of addiction while on the streets, and those people need detoxification or other healthcare issues sorted out prior to entry into programmes such as those at Tiglin. The step down into transitional accommodation afterwards is equally important. We noticed that sometimes when people leave after their treatment and their education they may not be successful in securing employment or other accommodation. That is why we established a day programme - so that a certain type of individual who needed that extra bit of support would have somewhere to go during the day. Continuing educational supports and other housing options could be introduced at that point. The community employment scheme linked them with other employment options. That is the whole wraparound approach to the journey from the streets back to aftercare, and it takes time.
Could Mr. Thompson please answer one technical question? Apologies to Deputy Ó Broin. Mr. Thompson referred to Tiglin receiving a certain amount of State funding and mentioned that fundraising was also undertaken. Am I correct in stating that Tiglin is a not-for-profit organisation running at a deficit, which is made up through fundraising?
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
Between €300,000 and €400,000. Even at Christmas we had judges from the District Court bag-packing for us at Tesco in Naas. People know what we do, they appreciate it and they get behind it. We receive referrals from the State bodies, councils, probation services and others. Deputy Ó Broin spoke about funding. The east coast drugs task force funds five beds. At the moment we have eight to ten people from the east coast region. The south inner city local drugs task force supplies the funding for three staff members and for other outreach work. I am a voluntary chairman; I have a business in Deputy Durkan's area, and my job is to fundraise for Tiglin and push it. However, there is only so much that voluntary bodies can do, and I think I have gone around everybody's door with a begging bowl. They are sick of seeing me coming. That can only go on for so long. In order to see the likes of Niall and people like him getting their lives back on track, this was my idea for how the State can come on board without any further cost. The committee asked if we had put this proposal forward to the Department of Social Protection. We did, and I put it to a previous Minister of State, the former Deputy Alex White. I received correspondence in reply to my proposal which covered two elements: rent allowance and the GP methadone allowance. I was told, very politely, that the more people were coming off methadone or drugs in Tiglin, the more people the State had who were going on drugs, and therefore there was no real cost saving.
I hope the judges put something in the bags they were packing as well as shaking the bucket.
With regard to Tiglin's waiting list, how many beds are there between the two residential centres and what kind of waiting list operates?
Mr. Phil Thompson:
With regard to bed numbers, as Mr. McCann said, there are 30 for men and up to ten for women. However, that does not include the aftercare step-down service, which consists of another 12 beds. There is always a waiting list for residential treatment and we find that it is very important to try to motivate people who are on a waiting list. If one is on a waiting list one needs to look at other options. While we would like to strike while the iron is hot and take a person in within a couple of weeks of them asking to come, that is not always possible. Currently the waiting list can climb anywhere from 35 people - which is the lowest I have seen it in the last few years - to more than 100 people.
However, we always try to offer other help. There may be another place with a shorter list. It is not like we would try to hold a person until a bed comes up. We are always looking for other options. We also have two workers whose role it is to help in the community setting. One of the things they would have done would have been that very thing, that is, to look at options of waiting.
It is good to see the delegates again. I had the opportunity to go to Tiglin and I have been on its bus several times, so I know at first hand the work it does, the way it reaches out to people and the dignified way it does it. It is done in a respectful way for those who are homeless and in addiction. On addiction and capacity, I know Tiglin's physical building has capacity for more. What would it take to do that? That question relates more to addiction rather than homelessness.
After the transitional housing, quite a number of people who are in recovery can go back to their family of origin. However, some cannot. What sort of support is Tiglin getting for housing for them?
Are those who come into residential care who are living in local authority housing, particularly if they are on their own and going to be in a residential setting for over a year, under pressure to surrender the housing, in the hope of getting it back, or can they hold onto it? That was an issue at other times.
Another question relates to links with prisoners, that is, people coming out of prison, whether they come out addicted or were trying to battle their addiction while in prison. Does Tiglin have connections with them?
I know Tiglin has a mixture of nationalities availing of the service. It might be an idea to let us know the range of people - not just Irish, but other nationalities - with whom Tiglin works.
I welcome the delegates to the committee and welcome the fact that anyone would do work among addicts and would help with regard to homelessness. However, I want to ask about Tiglin's ethos, because other Deputies asked if Tiglin was seeking to be a housing body. Obviously, Tiglin is also seeking a form of State subsidy. I, therefore, think it is legitimate to ask the following. I know Tiglin has a very strong Christian ethos and on its website it states that those in Tiglin believe literally in the Bible and that the Bible is the inspired and only infallible and authoritative written word of God. That is fine. I represent people of all religions and none, but I am wondering how that can impact on Tiglin's work with homeless people who may not be religious and alcohol or drug addicts who feel that a lot of the only therapeutic options are linked with a religious ethos in Ireland, and not just in Ireland, traditionally. Are there any non-religious alternatives? What proportion of those who go through Tiglin's programme become Christians? The graduation ceremony takes place in Nazarene Church in Greystones.
Okay, it does not. However, there is reference to a literal belief in the Bible. We all know what a literal belief in the Bible can mean. In terms of gay people, it could mean that Tiglin would have not a good attitude to gay people who might be homeless or addicts. I have to raise these questions if Tiglin is seeking Government funding.
On their attitude to drugs, do the delegates think drugs should be decriminalised? I would be interested to hear their views.
Donations have been raised for the organisation in the Dublin City Business Improvement District. Many boxes are to be found there. It has also been reported; there was a newspaper article in The Star. However, Dublin City Business Improvement District has also opposed methadone clinics being sited in its areas and has called for them to be moved out of the city centre. I raise the issue because it would seem it raises money for Tiglin but, also, opposes methadone clinics being accessible for people. It has also taken a very strong stance about what it calls organised begging. We all know that a lot of homeless people are addicts - not a lot, but a certain proportion - and may resort to begging. I do not know what the delegates' attitude to that would be.
I wish to make one point of clarification. The proposal put forward is not specific to this organisation. It was for voluntary residential groups in general and not solely for any one group. I am keen to clarify that in case there is any misunderstanding. That was the point made in the presentation, if I understand it correctly. The point is not to confer a unique position on one group over another. Under the proposal, the rent payment would go with any of the voluntary residential rehabilitation centres. It is up to the committee to look at the proposal afterwards. We will take the questions now.
Mr. Phil Thompson:
Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked what we plan to do. We have extra space in Tiglin now because we moved our women's programme to a new facility recently. An extra ten beds are available. Currently, we are partially renovating some of the other rooms and the extra space has come in handy in that sense. Ideally, we would like to use those rooms but there is a cost involved. We have the ability to help a further ten people. It costs approximately €30,000 per person per year in treatment at Tiglin. However, we need to ensure we do not up our numbers without upping the quality and standard to each person. It would be easy to simply fill those beds because the need is there. However, the quality and care offered to each person would diminish unless we improve staffing numbers at the same time. We are eager not to fall into that trap. I hope that answers the question.
A question was asked about support for housing. We do not get any support for housing at the moment. It goes back some time but we have been classified as an institution. People who are in institutions in the State cannot claim rent supplement and so on. We do not know how to change policy but we know how to help people in addiction. That is one of the reasons we are before the committee today seeking guidance and presenting this as a feasible solution.
We have links with prisons. We get letters on a weekly basis from people who are seeking to come to Tiglin for all manner of motivations. At one stage last year, 25% of our population had come from prison to Tiglin. It can go up and down but it is a consistent thing. We have talked about the links between homelessness and addiction but the links also cross over in this area. Mr. Murphy referred to criminal behaviour. Often people pick up charges and end up in prison because of that. This is really about joined-up thinking. We need to branch into probation and prison services for funding as well.
There was a question about nationalities. Most of the people we are working with currently are Irish nationals. However, of those we meet on the outreach bus, probably 30% are non-nationals. Those in the centre at present are all Irish nationals. In the past we might have had one or two per year who were eastern Europeans but they were not in the centre in great numbers for one reason or another. Perhaps it is a language issue. Also, they do not seem to link in to many services on the street. That might be another issue to be addressed.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
Deputy Coppinger asked about the faith-based aspect of Tiglin. Recently, I had to go to the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. As I went in the entrance, I saw a marble plaque. The plaque states that the Sisters of Mercy carry on the business following in the way of Jesus Christ and so on. However, they are absolutely professional in every aspect of what they do. Tiglin has a faith-based ethos but we have bereavement councillors and our medical governance is overseen by Dr. John Latham, who was employed by the Government in the implementation of the methadone programme.
I have seen addiction in my family and that is what got me motivated. I do not care about anyone's background or his or her religion. If I see a person falling on the street, my motivation is to pick that person up. The Tiglin centre has a strict 14-module programme. Mr. Murphy can talk about the details. Attitudes are covered in one module. An individual's personal responsibilities and rights are covered in another. Growing through failure is another again. It is basically a holistic approach.
They do mindfulness and have art therapists. IT Carlow is doing a programme so that everybody who comes through Tiglin is coming out with an education. If Deputy Coppinger comes in, for example, when she leaves in a year's time and people ask her where she was for the last year, at least she will have paperwork to show. Atheist, Protestant, Catholic, whatever religion someone is, he or she is very welcome to join our programme. Mr. Murphy can tell the committee about the ins and outs of the programme.
The Dublin BID - I do not know what it stands for - was mentioned.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
The idea was wonderful that the Dublin business improvement district would help the homeless and people in addiction. However, it did not translate. I do not know why. As regards the Dublin BID, I know the head - I think his name is Richard - but I do not know how it operates or anything like that. We did not approach them. They approached us.
Mr. Phil Thompson:
Deputy Coppinger mentioned discrimination around people's sexualities and all that. That would never even come into the programme at Tiglin. We could not and would not want to discriminate against somebody because of their sexuality, belief system or non-belief system. I hope that clarifies the question.
I apologise that I was a bit late at the beginning. I congratulate the three witnesses. I went to visit Tiglin a long time ago. The one thing that struck me about it was the 12 steps type model. It was not a religious kind of thing. It was the 12 steps and was about people, their well-being and the reality of life and everything else. I thought it was a wonderful model.
I thank Mr. Murphy for his powerful statement. His statement says that "now my life is overwhelming with hope" and I think that is something that we could all bring into our own lives. Sometimes our lives are not overwhelming with hope and certainly Mr. Murphy is a real inspiration to those working with him and above all to others in the programme. They see people coming out the other end. I believe it was said that 78% of people have some kind of qualification coming out.
When people leave somewhere like Tiglin, it does not always mean that they can go into another home. While that is correct, at least when people leave they have something to bring with them. Going in, they certainly did not have it but coming out they are different people and they have a future. I have met some people down through the years who have been through the programme. I would just like to say well done to the witnesses on that.
How does Tiglin continue to receive its referrals? How does that happen? Is there an age limit? I cannot remember because it was a number of years ago that I was there. I congratulate the witnesses. Tiglin is a model that we should really help. We have people like Mr. Murphy who are struggling in addiction and are probably put into a flat or one room and really they are lost because there is nothing happening around them. I do agree that people in a programme like this should be given some kind of rent supplement or rent allowance because Tiglin is actually housing them and is probably doing a much better job than is done by putting people into a room on their own.
I thank the witnesses for the presentation. Was Mr. Murphy actually 16 months a resident of Tiglin and did he stay there the whole time? I was not familiar with Tiglin before today. I am from the south of the country and had not heard of it before.
Mr. Niall Murphy:
Yes, I did the whole programme. There was one stage after about ten months when I was struggling a lot and I came to the conclusion that I did not need it any more and had gone far enough, so I left Tiglin and found a flat and within six weeks I was back homeless again. Mr. Thompson took me back in, I finished off my treatment, dealt with those deeper issues and was able to walk in freedom after that.
Before we conclude, I want to refer specifically to Mr. McCarthy's proposition and proposals, so that we can be clear. He indicated that 72% of people presenting to Tiglin, or almost three out of four, had a homelessness issue. Is that particular to Tiglin, or does he believe that to be the case across the board? This is not solely a Tiglin issue; it is an issue across the rest of the residential rehabilitation centres.
When Deputy Butler spoke I was struck by the fact that the length of time people are in treatment in Tiglin is longer than some of the other centres. When someone stays somewhere for two or four weeks, rent allowance is not the same issue as it would be in the case of a person who was staying somewhere for six or 12 months. Mr. McCarthy might like to comment on the normal duration of stays. I cannot see how a proposal for two weeks, with rent allowance following, could be the same as a proposal involving a six-month or longer-term commitment, step-down periods and so forth.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
I recently completed a masters degree and as part of that I focused on Tiglin and how the longevity of the programme would be beneficial or disadvantageous for treatment. I should know the percentages off by heart, but I do not. The longevity of the programme seems to be a positive factor. The longer a person engaged with the programme, the more successful the outcome. We found it was important to have a long programme. I do not recall the first part of the Chairman's question.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
I sit on a voluntary cluster which includes Dublin city and the east coast with Tony Geoghegan, Tony Duffin and others involved in the various professional rehabilitation centres. I called Tony before I came before the committee to advise him of the proposal. He said it affects each residential rehabilitation centre. I do not have the percentages with me. Perhaps Mr. Thompson has that information. The figures apply across the board. That is why this proposal is not for Tiglin but rather for approved and accredited residential rehabilitation centres.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
For those members of the committee who have not been to Tiglin, I would love to extend an invitation to come and meet those involved. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to show them around and let them see how the programme works. On behalf of myself, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Murphy and others involved with Tiglin, we want to reiterate that the solution I have put forward is very workable. It should not cost the State anything extra and there will be results. It is to be hoped that in a couple of years' time we will be discussing the results of the decisions made by the committee.
Mr. Phil Thompson:
I was not sure if we had enough time to get into that. We are discussing the issue of homelessness. We receive referrals through homeless services around the city. Prison link workers are quite an interesting referral source because they spot the motivation on the landings from which they operate. We have strong links with the Probation Service. GPs and rehabilitation integration workers have been a valuable source of referrals around the country. Their role is to help a person track his or her journey throughout addiction, from the very first phone call right through to re-entry into society. We get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, and we try to link them in with a local service in order that a comprehensive needs assessment can be done locally. That referral can then be sent to Tiglin.
Mr. Aubrey McCarthy:
It is interesting to note that RTE did a program a while back and it focused on a guy who was well known in a certain area of Dublin. This guy now has a fantastic job. He is married and he is doing really well. Since then there has been an amount of referrals and people who have self-referred. The website crashed because of people wanting to know what they could do, because if he could do it then there is hope for us all.
I thank Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Thompson very much for their presentation and for answering the questions. In particular I thank Mr. Murphy for his bravery in coming to tell his story in a format like this. That is much appreciated. One of the remits of the committee was that people would come with recommendations. The witnesses have made their recommendation and it is up to the committee to discuss that now. I thank the witnesses for their attendance here today. We will suspend for a few moments and then we will have the next session.