Darragh O’Brien is Called out of his Pigeon Hole to face Reality? Darragh you cannot Bluff your way out of this National Scandal? Irelands Shame, the Forgotten People.

Posted by

‘Should really see this for himself’ — Homelessness volunteer asks Housing Minister to join her on soup run

  3 hrs ago


‘Should really see this for himself’ — Homelessness volunteer asks Housing Minister to join her on soup run

The Housing Minister has been invited by a homelessness volunteer to join her on a soup-run in Dublin so that he can see how bad the situation in the city truly is.a man wearing a suit and tie© Provided by Extra.ie

Mary Mokdad, who has been volunteering with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) for four years, told the Irish Mail on Sunday no two nights on the streets are the same; there have been deaths, young pregnant women in doorways and countless ambulances called as she has driven across Dublin helping some of Ireland’s most vulnerable.

‘The minister should really see this for himself. Just to speak with these people and hear what their lives are like.’a man wearing a suit and tie: The Housing Minister has been invited by a homelessness volunteer to join her on a soup-run in Dublin so that he can see how bad the situation in the city truly is. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins© Provided by Extra.ie The Housing Minister has been invited by a homelessness volunteer to join her on a soup-run in Dublin so that he can see how bad the situation in the city truly is. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

The MoS joined Mary and new volunteer Gareth while they prepped in the ICHH headquarters on Amiens Street for a miserable December night. The cold, wet weather meant extra clothes were packed along with sleeping bags, plus toiletries and soup, sandwiches and hot meals donated by local restaurants.

Mary, who works two nights a week with ICHH, said they had seen a small drop in numbers recently as the winter rolling beds had opened but they’re still seeing between 50 and 100 some nights. She thought that with promises of more homelessness accommodation at the start of the pandemic there would be a change: ‘I really thought there would be less on the streets but that’s not the case. I’ve had people crying because they can’t get a bed and you call up some of the charities and they don’t even answer sometimes.

The DRHE (Dublin Region Homeless Executive) freephone finishes at 10pm so by the time you meet people who need one desperately, you just can’t get it. The system is very flawed. That’s why it would be great for the minister and people from the Department to come out here and see what it’s like, they never seem to believe the numbers we send into them, it’s just something you have to see to believe.’Mary Mokdad, who has been volunteering with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) for four years, said no two nights on the streets are the same; there have been deaths, young pregnant women in doorways and countless ambulances called as she has driven across Dublin helping some of Ireland’s most vulnerable. Pic: Tom Honan.© Provided by Extra.ie Mary Mokdad, who has been volunteering with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) for four years, said no two nights on the streets are the same; there have been deaths, young pregnant women in doorways and countless ambulances called as she has driven across Dublin helping some of Ireland’s most vulnerable. Pic: Tom Honan.

The Government’s cold weather initiative was launched at the end of October 2020. It opens more beds to the homeless and provided additional funding to the DRHE, who oversee 70% of Ireland’s homeless. This year there was an increase of 300 beds and 40 temporary beds which are opened as needed.

Despite this, Mary said, there are still considerable numbers in need of support across the city.

It’s clear that Mary is passionate about what she does: ‘All these people want the majority of the time is a kind word and not to be judged, we might be the only people they’ve interacted with the whole day, especially where we’re going tonight. It takes me a while to settle down when I get home because I think “should I have done something, could I have said something, is there more I could have done”.

‘When grown men are crying in your face or you see a pregnant girl in the street and she’s planning on sleeping in a doorway on O’Connell Street, it can take a while to adjust after that.’a person sitting on the ground: ‘When grown men are crying in your face or you see a pregnant girl in the street and she’s planning on sleeping in a doorway on O’Connell Street, it can take a while to adjust after that.’© Provided by Extra.ie ‘When grown men are crying in your face or you see a pregnant girl in the street and she’s planning on sleeping in a doorway on O’Connell Street, it can take a while to adjust after that.’

Prior to COVID-19, ICHH would have walking teams of six but now they divide the city into north, south, centre and outskirts and the resources are shared between three vans with two volunteers each.

‘We have our regulars,’ Mary explains, before we head north towards Fairview and Clontarf: ‘We have a list of numbers and we call to see where they have set up for the night but oftentimes they’re always in the same spot. We have one guy we know well and we leave his food behind a wall for him if he isn’t in his tent because he’ll be back later on in the night.’a person holding a bag: Prior to COVID-19, ICHH would have walking teams of six but now they divide the city into north, south, centre and outskirts and the resources are shared between three vans with two volunteers each. Pic: Tom Honan.© Provided by Extra.ie Prior to COVID-19, ICHH would have walking teams of six but now they divide the city into north, south, centre and outskirts and the resources are shared between three vans with two volunteers each. Pic: Tom Honan.

On our second stop in Clontarf, we meet Al, 50. He has been using the ICHH service for over a year and, he told the MoS, he’d be lost without them: ‘I’ve been staying in a friend’s shed, they’re are a lot of people who are worse off than me. I could never stay in a hostel, they’re not safe, I don’t have much but what I have I want to keep.

‘My mother died and I have a necklace belonging to her. It isn’t worth anything to anyone but it is to me. But it’s great to get this in the evening time and it’s a great service especially as it’s getting colder, people have no idea what it’s really like out here.’ Al takes a soup, a sandwich and some fruit before putting an order in for some clothes, like many of the service users do for the following night.a man and a woman standing in front of a store: Gareth (centre), who has been volunteering with ICHH for three months, said COVID-19 hasn’t been as much of a talking point for the people who use their service. Pic: Tom Honan.© Provided by Extra.ie Gareth (centre), who has been volunteering with ICHH for three months, said COVID-19 hasn’t been as much of a talking point for the people who use their service. Pic: Tom Honan.

Gareth, who has been volunteering with ICHH for three months, said COVID-19 hasn’t been as much of a talking point for the people who use their service: ‘They might ask us for a mask if they had a hospital appointment the next day but for the most part it seems like they have bigger worries.’

In Edenmore, we meet Sarah, 27, who tells the MoS she’s been homeless for 11 years. She shares a tent with two other women and they stay together to keep safe.

One of her biggest worries is the winter: ‘We take it day by day but it’s a horrible way to live, you don’t know what’s around the corner but you adapt — you have to. I would love to have somewhere permanent but I just take each day as it comes.’ At the final stop in Edenmore we meet couple, Charlie O’Connor, 34 and his girlfriend, Michelle Wall Cummins, and on this night it’s her 31st birthday.a person lying on a sidewalk: In Edenmore, we meet Sarah, 27, who tells the MoS she’s been homeless for 11 years. She shares a tent with two other women and they stay together to keep safe. Pic: Maja Hitij/Getty Images© Provided by Extra.ie In Edenmore, we meet Sarah, 27, who tells the MoS she’s been homeless for 11 years. She shares a tent with two other women and they stay together to keep safe. Pic: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

While getting food and clothing from the van, Michelle said she never saw herself spending her 31st birthday like this. She had a very difficult upbringing in care in Waterford before entering into an abusive relationship with her former partner.

She said: ‘I was with him for four years, we lived together, he would beat me, sometimes with a hammer. I couldn’t get out but he died two years ago and the rent for the home was €900 and I couldn’t afford it and I’ve been homeless since.’

She and Charlie have been together for six months but the pair are hoping for a home together. Michelle said: ‘If we could get a place together we would bubble wrap it, we’d mind it so well.’

Charlie said they feel forgotten about: ‘The Government wants absolutely nothing to do with us, they don’t want to listen to us or know anything about us.’ Charlie points to his feet and said: ‘We have nothing, look at our clothes, look at how we’re living, they’re filled with holes, my feet are like icicles.’

The pair said they wouldn’t stay in hostels as they would be forced to separate. Michelle said: ‘He’s all I really have, we don’t want to be separated so we’re better staying here. I suffer with mental health issues, I have social anxiety and with COVID I wouldn’t want to stay in rooms with strangers, no one would.’a pile of luggage sitting on the side of a building: ‘You’d wake up and across from you some chap will be lying there dead with a needle in their arm. If you can avoid the hostels, you do.’© Provided by Extra.ie ‘You’d wake up and across from you some chap will be lying there dead with a needle in their arm. If you can avoid the hostels, you do.’

Charlie agreed and said: ‘You’d wake up and across from you some chap will be lying there dead with a needle in their arm. If you can avoid the hostels, you do. We have a tent well in away from the road here and there’s another couple there too so we’re safer out here in the cold than in there.’

When asked what it was like spending another night homeless, Michelle said: ‘I was in care all my life and then my ex used to beat me so for me, this will be one of the best birthdays ever because I have Charlie.’

Mary and Gareth leave the outskirts and head into the city centre. Although they usually aim to finish at midnight or 1am, this evening was so busy they didn’t get home until 3am.

The next day Mary said: ‘It was 3am when I got to bed and that’s not a complaint. I hate missing anyone, especially on the outskirts as we may be the only people they interacted with all day.’a group of people standing on top of a cutting board with a cake: ‘It was 3am when I got to bed and that’s not a complaint. I hate missing anyone, especially on the outskirts as we may be the only people they interacted with all day.’ Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire© Provided by Extra.ie ‘It was 3am when I got to bed and that’s not a complaint. I hate missing anyone, especially on the outskirts as we may be the only people they interacted with all day.’ Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A total of 89 people were fed and clothed on that night alone but as Mary says it’s not just about the service, it’s about the respect they’re given: ‘A kind word goes a long way.’ The MoS asked Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien if he would accept her invitation and join her on one of her soup runs.

A spokesperson from the Department of Housing said: ‘Minister O’Brien is acutely aware of the difficulties that homelessness presents. He has visited homeless facilities and he has also accompanied the Outreach Teams on their nightly runs.

There is an enhanced rough sleeper outreach including increased staff for the Dublin Street outreach service provided by Dublin Simon and funded through DRHE for the winter period to enable broader engagement with people sleeping rough.

‘The team work actively on the street to encourage people to avail of emergency accommodation.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s