A life-saving drugs project from Extern which supports people who are homeless and managing problem substance use has taken a top prize at this year’s Chartered Institute of Housing All Ireland Housing Awards 2023.

Extern, which supports almost 25,000 people across the island of Ireland every year through a range of innovative services, took home the award for Excellence in Health & Wellbeing for its innovative Ormeau Centre/Drugs Accommodation Support Project (DASP).

Held in Belfast on Friday evening, the prestigious awards recognise and celebrate good practice, highlight innovation, and showcase the work of housing professionals and their communities across the island of Ireland.

An assertive outreach project, with accommodation provided by Extern’s Ormeau Centre for the homeless, DASP supports drug users with stabilising their lives by accessing temporary supported accommodation and specialist support. Through the programme, Extern supports actively injecting drug users in moving from the streets into stable supported accommodation and appropriate treatment for problem drug use.

Over the past five years, the project has intervened in almost 100 overdose situations, helping to save many lives.

Also shortlisted at the awards, in the Working in Partnership category, was Extern’s Multi-Disciplinary Homeless Support Team (MDHST), which provides support to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have complex additional needs, including diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health, substance misuse, physical health issues, offending backgrounds, learning disability and family issues.

Colin Hayburn, CEO of Extern, said: “On behalf of everyone at Extern, I am so proud of our fantastic winners and shortlisted candidates at this year’s CIH Housing awards.

 “Our teams support some of the most hard to reach and marginalised people in our communities, so to have their work recognised in such a high-profile and prestigious way means so much to them and to our organisation as a whole.”

 He added: “Thank you to the judges and to the organisers of these fantastic awards which recognise the hard work and dedication of so many of the frontline organisations which have a profound impact on the lives of people every day.”