Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Seán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
I do not recognise the system the Ministers of State have described this morning. It is not my experience, particularly with regard to the wraparound supports that are supposedly available to those with problematic substance use who have become homeless. I say this not to score points but with the hope that the Ministers of State will move beyond the rhetoric and look at the real challenges facing people in these circumstances.
We are speaking about people who I would describe as adults at risk, who find themselves homeless and who might be on a drug or alcohol programme. They might be drug or alcohol free if they are lucky. They have changed their lives around. Some of them might be coming out of jail, full of hope and good intentions, determined to change their lives around and not repeat mistakes. What happens to these homeless people? If they are lucky, they are offered a couch or a bed and to stay with friends but for the majority it is the hostel route. The first challenge then is to get a bed but they are not given a choice about that bed. They are put into an environment of active drug users and alcohol use. It is a system set up to fail and this is the point I want to make this morning. The odds are against anyone going into one of these hostels with regard to staying off drugs. In many cases, they go into an environment of very active intimidation. If people go into dormitory-style accommodation and those around them are injecting, taking drugs or smoking, it is very difficult not to partake. Equally, it is difficult if those in these circumstances, with the backgrounds they have, have had difficulties in the past with drugs.
Wraparound services for those in these difficulties do not exist in many cases. We can ask people who are sleeping rough tonight. I saw enough of them sleeping in doorways as I came in here this morning. What they will all say is they feel frightened and intimidated going into these hostels. We spend an absolute fortune in taxpayers' money on the homeless situation but we are putting people in danger. We are putting people at greater risk. I am asking the Ministers of State to intervene and become more active and be a voice for those people who want a choice and want to be put into a hostel that is drug free or alcohol free. Perhaps this morning we should be arguing for giving people more choice to support those in these circumstances. I would love to hear the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, saying he might go down this route and might take the path I am asking him to take.