24 Sept 2022

Services sought for homeless women who die younger than men

Services sought for homeless women who die younger than men

Homeless and addiction services need to be delivered with a gender-specific focus on women who have an average age of death of just 38 for those who are homeless, according to Merchants Quay Ireland. 

The national homeless and addiction charity published a briefing paper on Thursday calling on the government to support the provision of gender-specific homeless and addiction services for women.

A total of  percentage of homelessness in Ireland who are are female stands at 42 per cent.

The average age at death of women who are homeless in Ireland is 38 years, while for men it is 44.

In 2017, there were 211 female drug-related deaths in Ireland– a 7% increase on 2016.

Women who experience extensive violence and abuse are 8 times more likely to be drug-dependent.

According to Merchant's Quay, higher rates of gender-based violence, sex work and coercive control among women can leave them too ashamed, stigmatised and afraid to seek the help they need. 

International research shows that female-only spaces facilitate greater emotional and physical safety for women, especially those who have experienced trauma and abuse.

MQI recommends the urgent delivery of a female-only wellness centre which can respond to the unique and complex challenges faced by women who are experiencing homelessness and addiction.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland CEO, Paula Byrne, said: “Silenced by shame, guilt and fear, women experiencing homelessness and addiction could not be more vulnerable. Many are physically and sexually abused, struggle with their mental health, and face trauma after trauma.  Despite the hardship of their daily lives, they are often too ashamed or afraid to ask for help. MQI are calling on the government to support the delivery of gender specific homeless and addiction services.  There is an urgent need to establish a female-only wellness centre – a safe haven where women can feel welcomed, understood, and supported in rebuilding their lives.”

Speaking at today’s launch, Fianna Fáil senator and chair of the Women's Parliamentary Caucus, Fiona O’Loughlin said: “I have no doubt that there will be strong support for the delivery of a women’s wellness centre in Dublin which could provide a one-stop-shop for women experiencing homelessness and addiction. It’s time for Ireland to really respond to women with complex needs, and ensure that they have access to safe, compassionate spaces.”

The centre will be a safe, warm and welcoming environment and will provide holistic, trauma-informed services such as health services, social supports re: housing, legal issues, and access to benefits, access to courses & workshops, support in accessing education and finding employment, therapeutic counselling, access to specialist supports addressing substance misuse, gender specific violence, coercive control etc.

The centre will work collaboratively with other organisations to meet the needs of this very vulnerable group.

Merchants Quay Ireland is the national charity working with people who are homeless and in addiction.

The organisation provides services ranging from open access crisis intervention and health promotion services to day-support programmes, residential treatment, detox, and prison counselling.

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