Press Release

Urgent need for dedicated female service for women experiencing homelessness and addiction – Merchants Quay Ireland

Urgent need for dedicated female service for women experiencing homelessness and addiction – Merchants Quay Ireland



Merchants Quay Ireland, the national homeless and addiction charity, has today published a briefing paper calling on the government to support the provision of gender-specific homeless and addiction services for women.

The paper notes that women are often unable or unwilling to access existing services. Higher rates of gender-based violence, sex work and coercive control among women can leave them too ashamed, stigmatised and afraid to seek the help they need. Tragically the average age at death of women who are homeless in Ireland is thirty-eight years of age – six years younger than men.

International research shows that female-only spaces facilitate greater emotional and physical safety for women, especially those who have experienced trauma and abuse.

MQI recommends the urgent delivery of a female-only wellness centre which can respond to the unique and complex challenges faced by women who are experiencing homelessness and addiction.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland CEO, Paula Byrne, said:

“Silenced by shame, guilt and fear, women experiencing homelessness and addiction could not be more vulnerable. Many are physically and sexually abused, struggle with their mental health, and face trauma after trauma.  Despite the hardship of their daily lives, they are often too ashamed or afraid to ask for help. MQI are calling on the government to support the delivery of gender specific homeless and addiction services.  There is an urgent need to establish a female-only wellness centre – a safe haven where women can feel welcomed, understood, and supported in rebuilding their lives.”

Speaking at today’s launch, Fianna Fáil senator and chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Fiona O’Loughlin said:

“There is strong cross-party support for the delivery of a women’s wellness centre in Dublin which could provide a one-stop-shop for women experiencing homelessness and addiction. It’s time for Ireland to really respond to women with complex needs, and ensure that they have access to safe, compassionate spaces.”

Our briefing paper A Space of Her Own: The Need for Gender Specific Services for Women in Homelessness and Addiction is available HERE.

– ENDS –

Notes to the editor:

Relevant figures

  • 42% of people in homelessness in Ireland are female.
  • The average age at death of women who are homeless in Ireland is 38 years, while for men it is 44.
  • In 2017, there were 211 female drug-related deaths – a 7% increase on 2016.
  • Women who experience extensive violence and abuse are 8 times more likely to be drug-dependent.

About the MQI Women’s Wellness centre

The centre would be a safe, warm and welcoming environment and would provide holistic, trauma-informed services such as health services, social supports re: housing, legal issues, and access to benefits, access to courses & workshops, support in accessing education and finding employment, therapeutic counselling, access to specialist supports addressing substance misuse, gender specific violence, coercive control etc., The centre will work collaboratively with other organisations to meet the needs of this very vulnerable group and this will allow us to provide person-centred care & pathways for women.

About Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland is the national charity working with people who are homeless and in addiction. The organisation provides services ranging from open access crisis intervention and health promotion services to day-support programmes, residential treatment, detox, and prison counselling.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Steven Lynam, Q4 PR

087 235 4126

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