The devastating effect of homelessness and addiction

“The people who turn to Merchants Quay for help speak of feeling invisible and voiceless, of feeling that society has given up on them. Our hope for this film is to make their voices be heard, so we can deepen understanding of what it means to be in addiction and homeless in Dublin today.” – Paula Byrne, CEO, Merchants Quay Ireland

Ireland is in the middle of the biggest social crisis in generations.

We are in a significant and growing drugs crisis. Two people a day die from drug-related causes. This, coupled with a chronic housing and homeless crisis, has resulted in many people being left behind.

The trauma of homelessness can severely impact people’s mental health. This impact is causing some of those affected to turn to drug use. In the last six years, the number of people who are homeless being treated for problematic drug use has doubled.

When people in addiction are forced to spend longer and longer in homelessness, their addiction can worsen. Their capacity to consider and embrace available recovery options deteriorates.

Homelessness and addiction are combining with devastating effect.

“It’s like you’re invisible to people. They just step over you.” – John, MQI client

This is why Merchants Quay Ireland exists.

The first inception of Merchants Quay was a simple cup of tea, a sandwich and a friendly face back in 1969. But when Ireland’s addiction crisis began to take hold in the 1980s, the need for help became more diverse and complex. Merchants Quay was born, and demand was instant.

What Merchants Quay Ireland is doing

Today, Merchants Quay provides a wide range of services across the continuum of care for people. That means everything from shelter and warm clothes to health care and drug treatment.

In 2017, we supported over 10,000 people with needs spanning homelessness, addiction, and mental health. Merchants Quay is a safe place where everyone is welcomed, supported and cared for.

“People can fall into addiction, but they don’t have to stay there. With the right support they can regain control over their lives”  – Raul, MQI Mental Health Worker


About the film

Made on a shoestring budget with a crew of four, MQI worked with director Conor Ferguson (The Wednesdays) and producer Jonny Speers (Adam & Paul).

Speaking about making the film, Conor Ferguson said:

“The film was a brilliant opportunity to work with an organisation that makes a real difference in so many people’s lives.

“I was really struck by the level of thought and care that I witnessed at Merchants Quay Ireland. It’s easy for society to judge a lot of the service users, but it was clear that the non-judgemental ethos of MQI helps to build a relationship of respect.

“You can sense the chaos many of their clients are living in, and MQI offer what feels like a haven of kindness in the midst of this chaos. A place where they can get all kinds of help and counselling, or just a cup of tea and a sandwich. There’s even a hairdresser who comes once a week.

“I wanted to try and capture the profoundly human problems that MQI staff encounter every day, the hard work that goes into dealing with those problems and giving hope where it is badly needed.”

What you can do to help

Merchants Quay can’t solve this social crisis alone. It’s only by working together, with like-minded organisations and individuals, that we can begin to make a difference. Here are a few ways you can help Merchants Quay:


Almost half of our funding comes from the general public. As little as €10 can help provide someone in need with three meals and crisis medical care.

Our hope for this film is that it will deepen the public’s understanding of homelessness and addiction and, in doing so, begin to break down the stigma that still exists.

Please help us to do so by sharing it with your family and friends.


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