In response to the worsening homeless crisis the Riverbank building located on Dublin’s Merchant’s Quay welcomed 6,539 people in 2016 alone. The majority of men and women who come through our doors are among Ireland’s most isolated – struggling with homelessness, mental illness and addiction.
The centre provides a tremendous range of services to help some Ireland’s most vulnerable find pathways to recovery. Here, MQI’s dedicated staff build trusting relationships with clients which often starts with a cup of tea and a warm meal.
The Night Café
The Night Café opened in 2015, in response to the growing homeless crisis, and has been a refuge to rough sleepers. In 2016, the service was attended by over 2,000 individuals – who otherwise would have been sleeping on the streets.
Created to help some of Ireland’s most forgotten, Merchants Quay’s Night Café is a one of a kind emergency shelter. For those who are unable to access a bed for the night, the Night Café is a last resort.
Merchants Quay is adamant that resting on yoga mats on a floor is far from the dignity these men and women deserve. However, while the need remains, Merchants Quay is committed to providing this essential service where people can rest in safety, get warm and get help finding a place to live.
As well as a place to rest their head, the Night Café provides a range of other services including; hot showers, fresh clothes information and advice, brief counselling on addiction and mental health, drug treatment options, and individual help with accommodation, health and social services.
The Drop-in Service at the Riverbank centre offers homeless people breakfast and lunch six days per week and in 2016 served 117,398 meals.
While these clients gain respite from the streets, the Drop-in Service is so much more than a hot meal. Linking men and women to health, social welfare and emergency accommodation, in 2016, we recorded 8,607 supportive interventions with service users at Riverbank, an increase of 34% on 2015.
The service provides supports to people who have been experiencing hard times, striving to empower and assist them to find a place to live and to get their lives on the road to a better place. Homeless people come from many settings, including rough sleeping, hostels, B&Bs, couch surfing with friends or family, and transitional and supported accommodation.
Staff and volunteers help each person as best they can. But homelessness is hard, and coaxing a frightened client in for breakfast can take as much work as getting someone into accommodation. So in cases where the person is unable or not yet ready to engage with us, or wants to continue living on the streets, we reduce associated harms where possible.
The Extended Day Service
The EDS service offers evening meals, crisis support, information advice and assistance to homeless people and rough sleepers between 5.30pm and 8.30pm. The service provided 16,233 meals in 2016, with between 80 and 120 people used the service each evening. The EDS ensures there is a continuum of care, and that there is support available to clients when other services are closed.
Merchants Quay Ireland has responded to the ever growing needs of our clients. When basic needs have been taken care of, many people need to avail of other services. The Counselling Service for homeless people works at two levels. Firstly, providing a brief crisis counselling service targeted at service users in distress. Secondly, offering medium to long-term counselling relating to issues such as relationships, bereavement and drug use.
A Young Person’s Support Worker was employed in 2015 to work with young people who come to Merchants Quay, aged just 18-25. The aim of the position is to enable young people to address the core problems in their lives, link in with training, education and employment services, make a swift exit from homeless services, and move forward with new purpose.
Many homeless people and drug users come to serious harm on the streets, and those who are not engaging with services are at higher risk. Our Assertive Outreach Worker goes out into the streets to make contact with vulnerable drug users who have fallen through the cracks, to provide them with warm clothing and food, and to inform them about accessible accommodation and drug treatment options.
I am looking forward to the rest of my life …
Thomas didn’t dream of becoming an addict. Thomas dreamed of horses. At just 16, he stood on the rich green grass of the Curragh … a promising young apprentice jockey, tending world-renowned Thoroughbreds in the soft light of dawn, watching his dreams become real.
But one night Thomas mixed in with the wrong crowd. He first used heroin at age 18. Less than three years after he looked out over the Curragh, Thomas was in a prison cell for committing robbery to finance his drug habit. (His jump from drugs to crime isn’t unique: in a recent UK study, nearly six in ten drug users say their drug use came before crime.)
He spent most of his twenties in prison, including the first years of his daughter’s life. Says Thomas, “She thought I was out of the country working, me Ma told her that. I promised meself as soon as Cara was born that would be my last sentence. It was pretty hard on my parents.”
This is where Thomas was at when he came to Merchants Quay Ireland. With a criminal record and few options for the future, but determined to keep the promise he’d made to set things right. For Thomas, and for others in his shoes, Merchants Quay provides free job training, help with housing, drug treatment and aftercare support.
Today he’s a changed man, having gone from heroin user to devoted father. And no one is more thrilled than Thomas:
“I am after getting me own apartment from the council. It’s a two-bedroom apartment for me and my daughter, not too far from me mother’s house. I can see me Ma from where I live so my daughter actually cycles up and when she’s ready to come home I wait at the top of the road. I am looking forward to the rest of my life … and I thank this programme for what it done.”
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