Community centre provides essential shelter for homeless

By Maurice Garvey

CHERRY Orchard Community Centre helped homeless people survive Storm Emma - opening their doors for over 50 hours during the height of the storm.

Up to 13 homeless people had a safe and warm place to stay, from Thursday morning at 8am until Saturday afternoon 3.30pm.

Orchard Community Centre staff

Not only was the initiative a success, but an incredible 43 staff and volunteers helped out over the two days, providing hot meals and assistance.

Unsure of what to expect prior to the storm, David O’Donovan, Cherry Orchard Project Manager, Dublin City Council, said he would “rather have the building open and empty than have it closed and the community struggling.”

“We housed 13 homeless people, or guests as we called them, and a number of neighbours also popped in looking for heat, water or a chat,” he said.

“I’ve no experience with homelessness. It is extremely difficult. Everyone has different needs, mental, physical, or just down on their luck. There is no easy fix. Some of the volunteers had experience or had been down that road before, and we linked in with homeless services. The guests we had were happy with the service.”

Pat Cullen, from Cherry Orchard Boxing Club, picked up the homeless men from Merchants Quay on Thursday morning, and the centre also had a couple of walk-ins from Long Mile Road and Ballyfermot.

Essential shelter, food and warmth

Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan praised the centre for “providing essential shelter, food and warmth for local residents and homeless people.”

“This not only provided a welcome service but gave the whole of Cherry Orchard and Ballyfermot a lift and focus during Storm Emma.”

O’Donovan stayed at the centre during the entirety of the initiative and survived on five hours sleep, and plans to honour the work put in by volunteers in an official capacity.

“We organised homeless accommodation for our guests before they left on Saturday,” he said.

The Tallaght man then spent two hours trekking home in his hiking gear, navigating waist deep snow at Kylemore.

Discovering his local shop had ran out of beer on his arrival to Springfield, was comforted by greeting his wife and kids at the front door, and a good night’s sleep.

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