MQI project worker Greg Duff supports clients at our Riverbank Open Access, and sees the issues they face on a daily basis as the weather gets warmer. Here, he speaks about what he sees in his role at MQI’s Open Access service and what he’s seeing on the ground.
At Merchants Quay Ireland, we support people who are homeless, sleeping rough, and/or dealing with drug and alcohol dependency. All year round, our project workers help clients with basic needs such as clothing, food, harm reduction and accessing emergency accommodation.
What is your role at MQI?
I’m a project worker here at Merchants Quay. I work mainly in harm reduction and on the floor, linking in with clients who’d be rough sleeping and in drug addiction.
What are the main issues that are currently effecting clients who are homeless and in addiction?
A lot of our clients find it difficult to stay in hostels because of their addiction or mental health issues, or because of intimidation in the hostels, so they sleep rough. When they’re on the streets, they report a lot of abuse from people at night, leaving pubs and nightclubs. They really rely on MQI to help them through. Changes of clothes and hot showers are vital, so they come to us for their breakfast and a shower, and we provide clean, dry clothes, socks and underwear.
“[Clients] really rely on MQI to help them through. Changes of clothes and hot showers are vital.”
What changes for our clients coming in to the summer months?
Coming into the summer months, our clients experience a different host of problems, especially overexposure to the sun. It can be difficult for them to find somewhere to go to get in out of the hot weather. We rely heavily on donations of bottled water and sun lotion for them. You’d think during the summer, our drop-in centre wouldn’t be as busy because the weather’s better, but actually it’s busier than in the winter because of clients trying to get in from the sun. During midsummer especially, between 12 to 3 o’clock when the sun is at its highest, we’d see a lot of people with serious sunburn and blisters. Often, if they are taking substances, they might not notice that they’re getting sunburnt as it’s happening, or until a staff member points it out.
“You’d think during the summer, our drop-in centre wouldn’t be as busy because the weather’s better, but actually it’s busier than in the winter because of clients trying to get in from the sun.”
What effect do the longer days have?
The long evenings are an issue. The city is a lot busier, a lot of the services are closed, so clients are exposed more to harassment and intimidation because there are more people in town. The good weather and longer days draw people in from the suburbs. A lot of overdoses happen as well because people drink a lot more to try and keep cool, so they’re drinking on top of taking drugs and they can lose control of what they’re doing, so the overdose risk is higher.
Have you seen many people who are homeless for the first time recently?
Yeah, it’s becoming regular, slowly but surely. At the moment, we’d see anywhere up to ten people per week who haven’t been homeless before. The pattern is there, we’ve seen it in the past. You could nearly go back on the stats and match them up to certain things that are happening now. So we’re predicting the numbers to keep rising.
We had a guy come in to the Sunday dinner service last week. He’d been living with his girlfriend, working. But they split up, and the night before he was couch surfing, then on Sunday he presented to us. He’d literally no idea how the homeless system worked, so we brought him in, we were able to explain to him how our services work, and explain all the other services, as well. We helped him get into emergency accommodation for the night, and arranged for him to come in again the next morning, and we got him set up in the homeless system. Because he’s working, we worked along with him to get him into a secure hostel where he’ll be able to sleep and hold down the job. Then we’ll support him to do a housing application and get the ball rolling for him.
We have so many different clients with so many different stories who come in to us, it’s about meeting them where they’re at, seeing to their immediate needs, getting them as comfortable as possible, and going from there.
MQI’s Open Access Services are located at 12-13 Merchants Quay, Dublin 8.
Opening hours are:
Monday – Friday: 8.00am– 12.45pm and 1:30pm – 8:30pm
Sunday: 9am – 1.30pm
More information is available here.