On behalf of the board of Tiglin and on my own behalf, I express appreciation to the committee for inviting us to meet today. As the Chairman mentioned, I am accompanied by the chief executive officer, Mr. Philip Thompson, and a former service user, Mr. Niall Murphy. The board and management of Tiglin very much welcome the work of this committee and I have been following it on the Oireachtas television channel. It is encouraging to see it.
At the outset, I must point out that Tiglin deals with a particular cohort of the homeless population. We operate a homeless outreach café known as the No Bucks café. Some members are aware of our work and the café can be seen around town. It is a big green coach converted to a café-restaurant type of idea. On Monday it can be found in Dún Laoghaire, on Tuesday it is Ballymun, on Wednesday it is in Bray, and I drive on Thursday and Friday nights, when it is on O'Connell Street, right beside the Spire. It is interesting to point out that 78% of service users who present to the No Bucks café and to our walking teams in the city have some form of addiction. With our clients, it seems that homelessness and addiction go hand in hand. Sometimes, homelessness can bring about addiction and sometimes addiction can bring about homelessness. It is also interesting that the café goes out in the evenings and that, therefore, we are dealing with a cohort of people - perhaps rough sleepers, etc. - which has not been catered for.
Tiglin also operates residential centres for both men and women. We have a residential centre for men in Tiglin, Ashford, County Wicklow, and a women's centre in Brittas Bay. A total of 72%, three out of four, of the Tiglin residents have experienced homelessness during their addiction. When a person we meet on the street goes through detox and is referred through various referrals, which our CEO will explain later, and comes to the centre we put them through a quite rigorous 14-module programme. The longevity is quite important. It is all in Tiglin, which is up in the Wicklow Mountains. It is a special place. We then have a step-down approach, which includes transitional housing.
Fr. Peter McVerry and other campaigners have said for years that it is a widely accepted fact that rehabilitation will solve the addiction problems of individuals. We know from listening to the people who have made presentations to this committee that housing is an obvious way to solve the homelessness problem. However, for those whose addiction has bound them into homelessness, residential rehabilitation becomes a necessary and successful exit pathway as it addresses the areas that tied them to a homeless lifestyle. While everybody who is homeless is clearly not in addiction and residential treatment is not necessary for every person in addiction, Tiglin has found that when a service user is bound by both homelessness and addiction the best way to solve it is through residential rehabilitation care. This cohort of people must be removed from their surroundings to attain a chance of getting clean and sober. Our experience has shown that the longer one keeps the individual who is homeless and addicted engaged, the better the outcome.
Tiglin is not out to solve the homelessness problem, but we are interested in helping those people who come to us for our service. Motivation, determination and people who take an interest and believe in the person are just a few of the many factors that are stimuli for entering into a sober life. Imagine being without the security of a home and a family, perhaps in poor health and perhaps with a scarred history due to one's addiction. How would one's determination hold up? The people we deal with do not know where they will sleep each night, whether they will be safe, whether they will make their methadone appointment in the morning or whether they will overdose on their next hit. Imagine what would inspire their motivation.
As we have seen in the committee's proceedings over the past number of weeks, homelessness has changed in recent years. Many people who are homeless have nothing to do with addiction. However, this committee was established because the situation has reached crisis point. Hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation and so forth have been filled because of the great need. Many of the people who are using those services work and have a good social structure around them, but the rising rental market has priced them out of it and the supply has not met demand. Imagine, then, how the doubly disadvantaged are affected by this situation. By "doubly disadvantaged" I mean people who are homeless and also have some form of life-controlling problem or addiction. While they are entitled to rent allowance, the obvious ravages of addiction and life on the streets are often clear to a landlord, so they are met with many excuses for not receiving the tenancy.
There are some who will obtain sobriety by an active care plan being put in place which provides housing, tenancy support and outpatient or day service rehabilitation. However, for the vast majority who are homeless and chronically addicted we believe strongly that inpatient residential support options are required. They must be removed from their surroundings and live in a sober community where professional skills such as counselling, therapy and medical interventions are addressed and educational opportunities are explored. I hope that some of the members will talk to Niall after my presentation and hear what worked for him. In Tiglin's experience, the great work of residential rehabilitation hinges on two main factors. One is that the person is properly prepared for drug-free rehabilitation. The second is that after the residential rehabilitation is completed, the residential after-care is in place to help the person step back into daily living. As part of that we also supply transitional housing.
We believe a full wrap-around service for two years is necessary in many of these situations in order to exit homelessness and addiction successfully.
This is exactly what we do at Tiglin. Tiglin is seeing people successfully exit homelessness through long-term rehabilitation and support housing after treatment. We partner with Wicklow County Council in offering a transitional house in Arklow for people who come from any accredited residential rehabilitation facility. It gives them a transitional house, so that they can take a step back into a sober lifestyle. We also offer transitional housing to 35 individuals in Greystones, which works very well. We have 30 male beds and 12 female beds for residential rehabilitation.
When I was preparing this presentation, I was thinking of people I could bring with me and I wrote down names. I came up with 140 names of individuals who have been homeless and in chaotic addiction but are now back in jobs, education, housing and have found new lives beyond addiction and homelessness. That is phenomenal and it is brilliant to be able to say it. Mr. Niall Murphy is the lucky one here today. He had been housed many times due to his homelessness but it was only when his addiction was finally addressed that his housing needs were catered for. He is now back in work after completing his education, is paying taxes, recently got married - so is more of a success in that respect than me at the moment - and he has obtained a mortgage for a new house. I hope members will be able to sense something of Mr. Murphy when he talks to them.
The solution I propose is very simple and I hope the committee will take it on board. The housing allowance that the homeless person is entitled to should be used in the rehabilitation treatment of that individual. Entitlements before treatment are not the same as entitlements during treatment. This proposal is for people who have an entitlement but are not able to access that entitlement for the duration of the treatment. If their partner is using that entitlement then they do not have an entitlement. The people concerned do not have the capacity to use their entitlement. Residential rehabilitation can be used if we give them the capacity to use it. If we do this, we then have a fighting chance of solving the homelessness and the addiction problem for that person.
I am delighted to say that 78% of people who exit Tiglin are sober today and are working, in education, on CE schemes, and so on. However, Tiglin, alongside Merchants Quay's St. Francis Farm facility, Coolmine and other places, does not qualify to accept rent allowance as it is classed as a rehabilitation institution. This means that if Niall Murphy, who is homeless and in addiction and is entitled to rent allowance, wishes to come in to the likes of Tiglin or any other rehabilitation centre, he loses this entitlement and the Tiglin staff have to fundraise, through bag-packing, marathons, etc., to raise the costs of his residential treatment, which is rather unfair.
It was clear at the time Mr. Murphy came in, as he will share with members, that he did not have the skills to take a home from the State. He was given housing by the State, but he was not able to keep that housing because his own addiction came first. He had an entitlement to a home but he had no home. People like him get the money to stay in a hotel, but if they go into a treatment centre they do not get the money. Is it realistic that a rehabilitation facility would voluntarily give accommodation to a person for up to a year without State support? The solution is clear: allow the individual to use that housing allowance, which is their entitlement, for their residential treatment. I do not mean that just in respect of Tiglin, but for all accredited residential rehabilitation centres. This costs the State not one cent extra and with us it would give a 78% chance of turning around this individual's life, so that homelessness and addiction are no longer an issue for that person.