By Fiona O’Loughlin
The scale of the crises in housing and drug addiction is becoming more and more evident on our streets. A striking feature of this crisis is the Government’s unwillingness to deal with this.
Simon Coveney, the Minister with responsibility for housing, said in September; ”We are running to stand still at the moment”. The fact of the matter is that they are not even standing still, the situation is rapidly deteriorating on all fronts.
In August, 998 families were living in emergency accommodation, up a staggering 64% from August 2015, then it was a disgraceful 607 families. Mike Allen, the Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland described the system as “completely and utterly dysfunctional.” Homeless people are facing mental health challenges, addiction and death directly due to this crisis.
The average lifespan in Ireland is almost 81 years old yet the average age of death for a homeless man is 42 and for a homeless women is 38. From 2011 to 2014, 16 homeless people died on the streets and 41 in homeless services.
Rise in drug addiction
Linked with the housing crisis is the rise in drug abuse. Addiction services are finding their services under increasing pressure as the crisis intensifies. Merchant’s Quay Ireland report an increase across all sectors of services provided in 2015 with 66% increase in demand for mental health services, 19% increase in nursing services, 15% for drop in services and a staggering 35% increase for needle exchange services. It also increased the capacity of the night café in a bid to cope with the increasing numbers of people who cannot find an emergency bed.
The cuts to public services in the past number of years have impacted on the working class and the most vulnerable layers of our society. The capitalist class and their lackeys in government rely on the market to solve the housing crisis whilst at the same time giving their friends, the property developers a way back to the “good times” with massive profits off the backs of desperate people needing a roof over their heads.
We need massive investment in all areas of public services, including housing, education and all aspects of health such as addiction services. We need to challenge the logic of a capitalist system that has resulted in the super-rich increase its wealth by €38 billion from 2010 onwards and where multinationals making super profits like Apple get tax breaks worth billions. All of this is happening in the context of growing a social crisis that is immiserising the most vulnerable.