Tadhg McNally talks to Catherine Kieran about the ‘Path out of Homelessness’ project
"It’s a misconception that you can just present at the Simon Community as homeless and we will just give you a bed”, says Catherine Kieran, manager with the Simon Community, when speaking to The Democrat last week.
At the Simon Community facility named Seatown House on Jocelyn Street, Catherine explained that any homeless people looking for help must first be cleared as homeless by the Louth County Council.
They can then be moved into emergency accommodation if beds are available.
The Simon Community has 10 beds allocated for emergency accommodation in what they call “The Gatehouse”.
Catherine added: “We’d hope to have you moving on from Gatehouse within three months”.
The Gatehouse is open from 9pm to 9am regularly, but during the winter months, the Simon Community operates a “cold weather initiative” where the Gatehouse reopens at 5pm.
During all this, the Simon Community also provides a key worker, who is there to help people get any of the supports they need, whether it’s coping with addiction or counselling.
During the day, any homeless people can move on to the day centre in Seatown.
This facility allows Dundalk’s homeless population to get a hot meal or shower, as well as access any support facilities.
“What we’d like to do within those three months is stabilize them”, says Catherine.
The day centre is also used to hold sociable events for homeless people to “ensure they’re not isolated”, adds Catherine. The events can be either arts and crafts or cooking classes to teach them skills to live independently.
After a stay in the Gatehouse, people are then moved onto the community house, which has 20 beds. 17 of these are owned by Louth County Council, while the remaining three are split between Monaghan’s and Cavan’s County Councils.
The community house is slightly different to emergency accommodation as people usually stay for anywhere between 6 to 18 months. “You’re allocated into all your services and you would learn more independent living skills”, says Catherine.
“After the 6 to 18 months in our community house, we would hope you would move on to independent living.”
However, if they can’t get rented accommodation, they can be moved into one of the 18 transitional houses which are owned by Dundalk Simon for 18 months.
For those who require a bit more support, they have three bungalows available, so they can stay in closer contact and get whatever help they need.
The Dundalk Simon shop is their main source of income for everything that they do, where they even sell furniture that is refurbished by people who come to the day centre.
“If it wasn’t for the shop, the Simon Community would really struggle to survive”, she says.
According to Catherine, during the summer the amount of donations made to the Simon Community have gone down. “In the good weather, homelessness isn’t really in the forefront of people’s minds.”
Several events are also being planned by the Simon Community for the near future.
They will have a racecourse night in Dundalk Stadium in October to raise awareness.
As well as this, there will be the annual bucket collection in the Marshes and the 24 hour sleep out in December.