ICHH Covid-19 Outreach Blog:
Their dignity has been completely stripped away and their feeling of loneliness exacerbated.”
I’ve been volunteering with ICHH for many years but nothing could prepare me or any of the volunteers for the immense challenge that Covid-19 would bring upon the homeless community. Since early March we have had to curtail our normal outreach service to adhere to social distancing measures.
This meant that our usual 4/5 person walking teams would cease and be replaced with teams of 2 in our mobile outreach vehicles to reach the most vulnerable in our society. After hearing the news from the housing minister that the government would de-congregate the largest adult hostels and provide additional beds to allow for social distancing, we were hopeful that we would see a reduction of rough sleepers on our streets. Unfortunately this is not the case and we are still seeing 80 to 100 people sleeping rough every single night in Dublin City.
The people who were afraid to go into hostels before this pandemic are even more afraid now because it’s impossible to practice social distancing when sharing a room with up to 4 strangers. Those who want to access accommodation are sometimes turned away and offered a sleeping bag. Just last week a lady with special needs was refused a bed and offered a sleeping bag because of a red tape issue in the DRHE. They are feeling even more abandoned since the homeless day services such as shower/toilet facilities and homeless cafés were suspended.
Some haven’t had a shower in over two months. Even the simple things like using a toilet are impossible with café’s and pubs shut. Their dignity has been completely stripped away and their feeling of loneliness exacerbated. We are seeing a huge increase in mental health referrals with many saying they cannot go on like this.
Our focus at ICHH is to try to reach these vulnerable people every day and offer them not just a hot cup, food and a change of clothes, but a voice. We will continue to tell the real story of these forgotten souls.