Homeless Deaths Are Equivalent to a Transatlantic Flight Falling From the Sky – Tóibín
Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín heavily criticised the Taoiseach for trying to “muddy the water, equivocate and fudge” the link between homeless deaths and the homelessness crisis. Speaking at Leaders Questions today in the Dáil An Teachta Tóibín stated;
“Taoiseach 357 homeless people have died in the last 5 years in Dublin. That’s is the equivalent loss of life to a transatlantic flight falling from the sky. It’s a catastrophe and its happening silently and invisibly every other day on the streets that we live on. There were 47 deaths recorded across homeless services in Dublin in 2018, and 49 in 2019. The number of deaths increased to 76 in 2020, and incredibly 115 people died in homelessness in 2021. So far this year, 70 deaths have been recorded across Dublin’s homeless services. It does not bear thinking about, but this figure is set to rise over the winter months as temperatures drop and conditions become much more severe”.
“These figures were released to Aontú by Dublin City Council under the Freedom of Information Act. If we submit the same question to any other county, it will be met with stoney silence, why? Because the deaths of homeless people are recorded by other Local Authorities. Think about that Taoiseach the vast majority of Local Authorities don’t even record these deaths. This is a scandal. If we are not even measuring these deaths how are we ever going to find a solution to this crisis. I have been raising the issue of homeless deaths for the last number of years. And Ministers of Housing have tried to explain away these deaths as being part of the natural attrition of life or being as a result of car accidents etc”.
“But the truth is Homelessness is a cause of death. People who were homeless for more than 18 months have a mortality rate eight times that of people who had been homeless less than six months.. Make no mistake People are dying directly as a result of them being homeless. In response to the last time I raised this, the Minister for Housing did commission Dr Austin O’Carroll, a north inner city GP to research the causes of these deaths and propose solutions. I welcome the fact that this was done. But there is little evidence that the government are getting to grips with this crisis”.
“Indeed the government are missing all of their own Housing targets. The Dublin Housing Delivery Group submitted a report to Minister Darragh O’Brien recently. They indicated that there is ‘evidence of a slowdown’ on some social housing projects and said that ‘work has ceased on some sites’. This is a record-breaking government for all the wrong reasons. There are record numbers of people accessing emergency accommodation. There are record numbers of children accessing emergency accommodation. House prices are at record levels and rents are spiking at record levels. And last year was a record for deaths of homeless people on the streets of Dublin”.
“Make no mistake all of these indicators are getting worse under the FF, FG and Green Government. Taoiseach will your government start to record the death of homeless people in every county in Ireland and will you detail the progress so far of implementation of the recommendations made in the report on the Mortality in Single Homeless Population 2020?
The Taoiseach in his reply indicated that there were many reasons for the deaths of people who were homeless. An Teachta Tóibín responed;
I think you are muddying the water, For sure there are many reasons for these deaths. But equivocate or fudging the cause and effect link, the correlation between homeless and deaths is wrong and it shows a government without the urgency needed to fix this crisis. Dr O Carroll’s own report, commissioned by the Minister for Housing details the clear links between homeless and deaths. Its not a coincidence that homelessness deaths are spiking at the same time numbers are at record levels.
Exposure to the harsh weather, alcoholism, drug abuse, mental health issues, lack of access to primary medical centres, to deal diagnosis all contribute to these deaths. These problems obviously occur at a far higher rate with people who are homeless and are extremely hard to solve without access to a safe and secure home. What progress can you point to in the battle to reduce Long-term Homelessness Taoiseach. What measures are you taking to increase access to Primary Care Services, mental health services and dual diagnosis services for people who are homeless.