Thursday, May 24, 2012

Meeting with Ria at Depaul Ireland

Thursday, 19th April 2012: Meeting with Ria at Depaul Ireland

I met with Ria from Depaul Ireland today to talk about this project and learn about the services Depaul provide.  We started with me telling Ria about what I’m working on, the various phases and how I think it might develop over the next year really.  I was a bit nervous about what Ria would think about Phase 3 and the durational aspect of it, she’s the first professional working in the area that I’ve spoken to directly about this and I wondered what she’d think.  The ethical concerns I have are still there, I’m still trying to consider all of that and work through it, so we talked about that.  Ria was supportive and patient in listening to me!
I was particularly interested in learning about Sundial House  on James’s Street, known as a ‘wet shelter’ where people are allowed to bring in and drink alcohol on the premises.  It’s the first such centre in Ireland and the only one available for people experiencing homelessness and provides accommodation for 30 people, previously long-term street drinkers.  Sundial has single and twin rooms with en suite facilities.  Each person living there is assigned a key worker, who creates a care plan with the person which looks at the individual’s situation and how to potentially make changes in their life.  The plan comes from the individual who decides what will work for them with the support and help of their key worker.  Each person is responsible for their own care plan and  key workers work to the pace set by the individual rather than anything being imposed across the board and applied to everyone, instead it facilitates each individual finding and making their own way with the support of the key worker.  Depaul describe this approach as “a holistic harm reduction response to the presenting needs of those housed.”  

I was most interested in Sundial because when I did the Simon Soup Run years ago, we used to end up at the wet shelter at the end of the Saturday night run, and would bring in whatever we had left and have a chat with the people there. It was then on Aungier Street, but the facilities in that building weren’t adequate and it was shut down due to a fire, re-opening on James’s Street in September 2008.  This is where T....  was, for a day, his Social Worker managed to get him a place after trying for a while because there was a limit on the amount of beds available.  I went with T…. in a taxi on the day he started and later that evening went back down to see how he was getting on, he’d spent the day in the toilet and walked out the door with me when I left.  At that point I don’t think he was able for other people any more, I think his world had gotten very small and he felt overwhelmed by the other people.  T…. would have been termed a long-term street drinker who was homeless, he lived on the hospital grounds really, and had created a daily circuit where he would spend time with the staff he’d gotten to know and felt comfortable with.  He could name any song he heard, who wrote it, the year it was in the charts and what number it reached.   I’m realizing more and more that he’s my inspiration for this project, it all really started when I met and became friends with T…. (R.I.P).

Ria explained more about the ethos of Depaul to me, they use an approach which came from the services in the North of Ireland called The Outcome Star which facilitates people assessing for themselves their needs and whatever changes they want to make and when they choose to make them, with the project & key workers providing the necessary supports when they do, to put their plans into action.
Depaul place a high priority on arts practice within the services, that’s how I got to know about them, my sister Grace did a project at Sundial in 2010 as part of the Life’s No Picnic on the Streets Programme which is an on-going programme that links professional artists with the service users of Depaul working through various arts practices like theatre, art, photography, creative writing.  The one Grace facilitated was creating a series of workshops with people in Sundial, and presenting a mobile theatre piece at Electric Picnic 

We talked about the Clancy shelter, harm reduction, Housing First model from New York City, Home First: independent living and meeting the needs of the people.  We talked about the ‘Crash Bed’ scheme operating in the U.K. where you can provide a bed for a night for some one, without anything else, where someone experiencing homelessness can literally ‘crash’ for just the night. And about The Bridge in Minnesota for Young People

Ria explained the new system of accessing a bed at night which is now centralised on Capel Street.

We talked about the word Angel coming up again and again, and I learned that Depaul have an initiative for fundraising called ‘Depaul Angels’ which I hadn’t heard of before.  There was an art project making ceramic angels which could be painted in different centres and sold at Christmas time.  I learned that “Angel” and being called “Angel” is a real thing that happens, all the time, Ria gave ma a present of one of the ceramic angels, which was lovely! (see photo)
We talked about the article in The Irish Times about the rise in Non Irish people experiencing homelessness in the recession, people who were previously working who lost their jobs and didn’t have the resources to go home, or didn’t want to go home.  I talked about seeing the Irish men homeless when I lived in London and how you’d know they were Irish, the sadness of thinking of them stuck over there.  Ria told me about the hostel on Charlemont Street which  which was run specifically for non-Irish people and had a 50 bed capacity. [The service was closed in March and the men living there were moved into other accomodation with floating outreach support provided by Depaul --]
And we talked about the amount of Young People experiencing homelessness in Ireland right now, and the different service provisions available to them, for those with their families and those alone, and the difficulty of dealing with their needs within the services, mostly adult focused, and the need not to duplicate already stretched services.

I was really inspired by the type of work Depaul do and the ethos of the organisation, looking for alternative models and ways to provide services to those who need them, it felt to me like an extremely vibrant organisation with a huge amount of energy within all focused on making a difference in people’s lives.  As I was leaving, Ria gave me another present, The Duke Special CD, two presents!  I’m very grateful to Ria for taking the time to meet with me and talk to me about the amazing work of Depaul and also discussing this project with me.  I had a lovely time at Depaul, and I hope to visit Sundial House some time in the next few weeks.
Thanks Ria!

Ria sent me some ammendments and clarifications to this entry which I've incorporated and also sent me further information:

Housing First information re. Dublin Homeless situation:

 RTE's new programme 'The New Irish'- 

 I'm really very grateful to Ria for taking the time to do this, thanks again.

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