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Media Releases 2014

SIMON COMMUNTIES OF IRELAND HIGHLIGHT LACK OF CARE FOR ELDERLY PEOPLE WHO ARE HOMELESS

Simon research & conference look at these issues for the first time in Ireland

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Simon Communities of Ireland today launched a new report, ‘Homelessness, Ageing and Dying’ and said that there is an urgent need to address the problem of an aging population among people who are homeless and struggling to deal with serious challenges of ill health and dying. This report looks at these issues for the first time in the Irish context.

The report was launched today at the Simon “Hidden Lives, Hidden Deaths” conference in Cork.  The conference was opened by Kathleen Lynch, TD, Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality & Defence with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality and Mental Health.

High rates of poor physical and mental health, isolation, and fear of being admitted to a hospital or nursing home are just some of the findings of the Simon report. The Simon Communities of Ireland support over 5,000 people each year. 

Homelessness is about more than a lack of housing, it has a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing. This is of particular concern as homelessness figures are on the rise and funding is decreasing. There are many different reasons why a person becomes homeless  - it is generally a combination of structural factors or personal ones; such as a family breakdown or health problems. What is clear is that once a person becomes homeless, the deterioration in their physical and mental health can be both rapid and debilitating.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland said:

“The earlier that we can intervene, the better the outcome is for people and their long term health and wellbeing. There is a clear need for recognition within the health services that people who are homeless have a reduced life expectancy and that those aged 50 and over who are homelessness often have health needs more generally associated with people who are older. The provision of appropriate housing, along with adequate healthcare support is needed

The Government have committed to ending long-term homelessness by 2016, using a housing led approach, which involves access to permanent housing along with ongoing support appropriate to each person’s needs. The Simon Communities are hugely supportive of this and we welcome the planned establishment of the Homeless Policy Implementation Team. This needs to be formalised as soon as possible so that we can work together to address the health needs of people who are homeless.”

Many older people who are homeless reported feeling lonely and of not having anyone to talk to about their fears of increasing ill health as they grow older, and their fear of dying alone.   There is a lack of access to appropriate health care and many people described their difficulties in getting to medical appointments due to a lack of transport, mobility issues or having problems registering with a GP because of a lack of address. There is also a clear need to plan for and address end-of-life care for people who are homeless - many older people who are homeless reported worrying about what would happen to them as their health deteriorated.  

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland said:

“There is an ongoing need for the provision of more proactive and co-ordinated specialist services and greater access to mainstream services so that we can meet the needs of people who are homeless as they age and are faced with ill health and dying. We hope that the report and conference will be the first step in making this link and that the health needs of people who are homeless will be regarded as critical, not only when developing homeless services but also when developing health and other related services.”

For media queries and interview requests 
Helen McCormack, Simon Communities of Ireland
Tel: 01 47 27 202/ 085 8065141 E:  communications@simoncommunity.com

About Simon Community:

The Simon Communities throughout Ireland provide the best possible care, accommodation and Support for people experiencing homelessness and those at risk. Together, with people who are homeless, we tackle the root causes, promote innovative responses and urge the government to fulfil their commitments. Simon delivers support and services to over 5,000 individuals and families throughout Ireland who experience – or are at risk of – homelessness every year. The Simon Communities of Ireland is an affiliation of local Communities in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East. 

Services range from

• Housing provision, tenancy sustainment & settlement services, housing advice & information services helping people to make the move out of homelessness & working with households at risk; 
• Specialist health & treatment services addressing some of the issues which may have contributed to homeless occurring or may be a consequence; 
• Emergency accommodation & support providing people with a place of welcome, warmth & safety;
• Soup runs & rough sleeper teams who are often the first point of contact for people sleeping rough.

About this event:
30th January 2014, 11am-3pm, Imperial Hotel, Cork.

This event marks the launch of our report ‘Homelessness, Ageing and Dying: exploratory research looking at the needs of older people who are homeless as they age, and are faced with the
issues of serious ill health and end of life’.

There is a lack of information about the exact number of people who are homeless and the nature of the homelessness at any one point in Ireland. There is also a lack of information on the physical and mental health needs of people who are homeless and particularly amongst older people who are homeless or formerly homeless. The overall aim of this study was to explore the needs of older people who are homeless as they age and are faced with the issues of serious ill health, dying and death. The research identified a number of issues when working with people who are older, homeless and experiencing serious health issues including the importance of:

• Access to appropriate health care and services which contribute to good health and well-being.
• The need for end of life care.
• Access to suitable and stable accommodation.
• The key role of support in accommodation.

The Simon Communities of Ireland were awarded funding under the Age and Opportunity Get Vocal Programme to undertake research looking at this issue

Speakers include:

• Kathleen Lynch, TD, Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality & Defence with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality and Mental Health.
• Aidan Culhane, Special Adviser to the Minister for Housing and Planning
• Maurice Hoare, Chairperson of the HSE National Homeless Advisory Governance Group.
• Dermot Kavanagh, Head of Cork Simon
• Chris Luke, Consultant in emergency medicine, Cork University Hospital
• Niamh Randall, Head of Policy and Communications, Simon Communities of Ireland
• Peter Cockersell, Director of Health and Recovery, St Mungo’s
• Dr Kathy Walsh, Independent Researcher

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