‘Homeless not Helpless’ – Conference marks start of Homeless Awareness Week.

Danny McQuillan, Director of Safer Communities and Homelessness, Charlie Mack CEO, Extern Group

‘Homeless not Helpless’ – Conference marks start of Homeless Awareness Week.

On Monday 30 November, Extern, the leading social justice charity, who provides over 11,000 bed nights, food and support to people who are homeless in Belfast annually, hosted a Homeless Awareness Conference at Belfast Metropolitan College. Themed ‘Homeless not Hopeless’, the Conference was attended by over 130 students and teachers from the college.

The Conference explored issues around addiction, drug and alcohol use, and its impact on homeless people. Drug use leads to many issues for people who are homeless including repeat homelessness, social and family isolation, debt, poor physical health and ongoing use of emergency services. A marked increase in drug and alcohol use by people who are homeless, lead to the creation of The Drug Accommodation Support Project (DASP), a bespoke project involving multi-agency co-operation and working. The projects aims to support I.V. drug users who are homeless to access temporary housing, stabilise and reduce use and find long term permanent accommodation.

Commenting on the Conference on Homeless not Hopeless, Extern Chief Executive, Charlie Mack, says;

“Homelessness is a huge daily issue here, with over 20,000 people presenting as homeless annually. It is accepted that people who are homeless face particular problems when accessing accommodation including stigma, legal issues, fear among providers all of which create significant risks. A multiagency project group have developed the Drug Accommodation Support Project across a range of agencies. The project aims to facilitate access to temporary accommodation for chaotic drug users who are homeless. Two hostels in Belfast provide beds for this service user group. They are supported by a dedicated DASP worker.”

The aim of DASP is to assess the individuals’ drug use, housing status, physical and mental health, and to look at issues and risk, for example harm reduction. Ideally through DASP we are able to secure a bed and work with the individual and staff to ensure that risks are managed and a clear support plan is in place.” Charlie added.

Agencies involved in the project include PHA, CHNI, Extern Salvation Army, Belfast Trust, NIHE, PSNI, PPS. The success of the DASP project to date is staggering, including;

• Since 2009 65 IV drug users have been supported in DASP beds.
• 37 successfully resettled into their own permanent accommodation.
• 55 accessed or remained on substitution treatment.
• Significant work has reduced both poor physical and mental ill health.
• Joined up working and training has meant the sector are much more aware of the IV users needs and how to manage risk.

The projects future ambition is to increase the number of beds available for this marginalised service user group and to continue to work to ensure access to services. DASP wishes to promote the positives of such initiatives in improving lives, address the stigma and fears around drug use and increase access to treatment and support, and address the impact of NPS use, heroin use and risks – which remain a huge public health issue.

Presentations from the 2015 HAP event are available to view/download by clicking on the links below.

Extern in Northern Ireland
Registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC105869
Company Registration No: NI 16083
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333
Extern in the Republic of Ireland
Company Registration No: 383201
Registered Charity Number: 20055318
Tel: +353 (0) 1 563 9402
Extern Group
Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC103226
Company No. NI 618684
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333
Extern Supporting Communities
Company No. NI 637561
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333