Recovering drug addicts are spending too long in temporary residences due to the housing crisis

Recovering drug addicts are spending too long in temporary residences due to the housing crisis
Anne Marie Cahill-King, Addiction Treatment and Aftercare Project Worker Cork Simon Community, on Anderson's Quay. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

A LACK of rented accommodation is leaving recovering drug addicts stuck in aftercare housing just to keep a roof over their heads.

Cork Simon’s community’s addiction treatment and aftercare worker, Anne Marie Cahill-King, said that helping source accommodation for service users availing of its temporary aftercare housing is becoming a significant obstacle.

“The ideal length of time to stay in the aftercare house is three to six months,” she said.

“However, because of the lack of housing, the moves are less frequent.

“Often the option just isn’t there. As a result, people in recovery are spending from nine months to a year in the aftercare house.

“The longest anyone has ever stayed in the house is two years and while this can also be down to individual circumstances the housing crisis is having a real impact.

“We have two aftercare houses located outside the city. The male aftercare house has four beds while the female aftercare house has three.

“The idea is to help people coming from the services to avoid returning to emergency accommodation and find their way back into the community through their recovery.”

She said it’s not just the aftercare houses that are suffering from the knock-on effect.

“There are people stuck in treatment centres, only because they have no place to go. It depends on the service but some might hold on to the person in treatment for as long as a year.

“I remember a time when rented accommodation could be obtained straight after leaving the aftercare service. People were able to just turn up and rent a house. Now, they are competing with people with cash deposits”

Instead, Anne Marie said there is more of a reliance on social housing.

“The list is getting longer, so much so that it’s no longer feasible for people. Many users of the aftercare service are concerned about revealing where they have been for the last few months.

“Their biggest concern is the stigma around homelessness and addiction.”

She spoke of the negative effect this can have on a service user’s progress.

“It can be very frustrating for a person depending on their situation.

This is too long for them to be in this kind of environment, especially when they see others moving on. In some ways, it can feel like they’re stuck all over again. This can feel like a major hindrance, especially when you are doing all the right things to move forward with your life.”

Anne Marie described the importance of meeting basic needs and he highlighted the significance of the aftercare programme.

“A lot of it has to do with fear of the unknown. Before this was available people were going into treatment but relapsing after a couple of weeks because they lacked the support where issues like navigating housing lists were concerned.

“All these problems come to a head when they are back out of treatment. They are now having to deal with the consequences sober. Much of the time it can feel like too much and that’s where my role comes in. My job is mainly supporting their plans and identifying what their goals are.”

The charity also help recovering addicts to reconnect with themselves.

“If you’ve been using since you were 12-years-old then you are unlikely to know what you are interested in or what you might like as a hobby. It’s all about finding who you are, reconnecting with family and identifying a strong support network in the community.”

Service users of the charity come from a broad range of backgrounds.

“The people that use our services come from all walks of life.

Some are university qualified, others are early school leavers.

Some people say that addiction is a disease. Others argue that it’s a learned behaviour, but the bottom line is that many of the people we deal with have suffered severe childhood trauma. Homelessness is in itself traumatic.”

To find out more about the Simon Community or how to donate to the charity visit http://www.corksimon.ie.

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