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  • Southside

Out on the streets and helping the homeless in Dun Laoghaire

Thursday, 17th January, 2019 8:00am
Out on the streets and helping the homeless in Dun Laoghaire

Tracey Andrews, Jessica Perry, Genny Smyth, Doreen Murphy, Emma Perry, Sandra Perry and Louise Confry are just some of the members of the Dun Laoghaire Helping the Homeless group.

Out on the streets and helping the homeless in Dun Laoghaire

Tracey Andrews, Jessica Perry, Genny Smyth, Doreen Murphy, Emma Perry, Sandra Perry and Louise Confry are just some of the members of the Dun Laoghaire Helping the Homeless group.

SPECIAL REPORT: Gabija Gataveckaite

STANDING on Sussex Street in Dun Laoghaire on a January evening, the cold starts to bite the hands first. 

But the seven ladies of the Dun Laoghaire Helping the Homeless group brave the low temperatures as they pour tea, hand out scones and chat to the people who approach the table.

These women spend two evenings every week on the street handing out hot soup, tea and clothing essentials for the homeless, but tonight they face a new challenge: getting hold of a tent. 

Two 19-year-olds have stumbled across to their stall that night, stuck for a place to sleep.

They had camped outside public buildings for several nights, but then their tent was  taken away, leaving them with nowhere to sleep. 

The ladies think they know someone who may have a tent and Jessica Perry make some calls and send texts.

Tracey Andrews had tears in her eyes. “If only my house was big enough,” she says, “I would take them all in.”

Emma Perry, Sandra Perry, Jessica Perry, Genny Smyth, Maria Brady, Betty Stuart and Tracey Andrews originally set up the group last November after they noticed an increase in the number of homeless people on the streets in the town.

“There are no services in Dun Laoghaire for the homeless apart from Crosscare,” explains Jessica.

“Many people need tents or sleeping bags during the evenings, or a change of clothes. We had a woman come down to us one night when it was lashing rain and she was completely soaked, so we had to give her a full change of clothes,” she remembered. 

“Socks are the main thing, usually they get soaked when walking around in the rain.

“There’s a big demand for physical things, not so much food,” she adds.

The group saw its busiest period in the lead up to Christmas.

“We had people with small children - we had a mum with two kids when we were here on Christmas Eve,” says Genny Smyth.

The group is especially important for Genny, who was once homeless herself.

“I was homeless 20 years ago with five kids, aged two to 14,” she reflects.

“It was a nightmare but when you’ve been there, you know what it’s like.

“If I had something like this it would have been a great help. Many of us have been affected by homelessness in some way, if it’s not us, then it’s a family member or someone we know.”

More and more people come up to the stall each week, as word spreads around the town.

“Some didn’t want to approach us at first, maybe they were too shy or embarrassed to come up,” suggests Genny.

“Usually some of the girls will go out looking for people sleeping on the street and ask them if they need anything,” she adds.

Even as the numbers of people coming to the stall looking for a quick bite to eat are increasing, donations are also growing. 

“Last Thursday, we had seven people come to the table and that was with four new people,” explains Sandra Perry.

“We get a lot of donations. We have a shedful of stuff and that will keep us going for the next couple of weeks.

“We have a lot of locals that just bring boxes down and we have some businesses that donate, which is a big help,” she explains.

The homeless in Dun Laoghaire can apply for a bed in Bentley House, through Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council. It is supported by Crosscare, a Catholic social care service,  which provides services to those in poverty in the area.

However, the homelessness crisis oftens creates a shortage of spaces, according to the women.

“If they opened some kind of building for us, that would be enough,” says Tracey.

“Just give us a building and we’ll do the rest of the work. We’ll sort the donations as people are more than happy to donate. all we need is  building.”

Several phone calls later, there’s some good news - a tent has been sorted. At least now, the young couple have some shelter for the night.

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