Homeless Services

Over the course of the COVID 19 pandemic, Merchants Quay Ireland continued to provide services and support to those in need. Now, as COVID restrictions begin to lift, Merchants Quay Ireland has begun expanding our services once more, in line with HSE guidelines. 

Homeless Services


We have resumed indoor dining for clients wishing to avail of our food service.

We are open Monday to Friday from 8am – 8:30pm and are closed between 5pm and 6pm. Dine-in meals in the morning and afternoon and takeaway meals are available between 6pm and 8:30pm. On Sundays, we operate a takeaway food service between 9am and 1:30pm.


In response to the worsening homeless crisis, the Riverbank building located on Dublin’s Merchant’s Quay welcomed 6,104 people in 2018 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.



Drop-in Service

The Drop-in Service at the Riverbank centre offers homeless people breakfast and lunch six days per week and in 2019 served 81,727 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 2019 we recorded 9,164 supportive interventions with service users at Riverbank.

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

Our EDS service is continuing to operate between 4.00pm and 9.00pm. 

The EDS service offers evening meals, crisis support, information advice and assistance to homeless people and rough sleepers between 5.30 pm and 8.30 pm. Between 80 and 120 people used the service each evening in 2018. The EDS ensures there is a continuum of care, and that there is support available to clients when other services are closed.

Other Services

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 a new purpose. In 2019, 546 young people were supported by our Young Person’s Support worker to move on from crisis and onto a positive pathway in life. This number has more than doubled since 2018.

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 team walk the streets of Dublin every morning, finding and connecting with people sleeping rough. They offer them food, water, warm clothing and information about about accessible accommodation and drug treatment options. If someone requires further assistance, our Assertive Outreach team will ensure that they get it, whether it’s a GP visit, mental healthcare or keyworking sessions to help them get back on their feet. On any given morning, our Assertive Outreach team might speak to upwards of 30 people with nowhere to go, and let them know that they are not forgotten.


Thomas, former MQI client


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 myself as soon as Cara was born that would be my last sentence. It was pretty hard on my parents.

This is where Thomas was 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.



Merchants Quay Ireland is supported by The Fund of European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD programme), which is designed to support Member states in addressing the basic needs of the most deprived people in communities. The Programme supports people without access to income or those living in very poor circumstances. FEAD Ireland work with not-for-profit bodies to fund the purchase of food and basic assistance.

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Last update of the article: 22/09/2021

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