Waterfird Vincent de Paul note a worrying city trend
The age profile of residents at McGwire House, the Waterford Vincent de Paul hostel on Bath Street, has noticeably lowered in recent years, according to one of the facility’s project workers.
Speaking to The Munster Express at McGwire House, Emily Murphy said “the need is certainly greater now” than what it had proven when the hostel was previously based, as it had been for many years, on Lady Lane.
“In Lady Lane, we operated on three floors, and the top floor was only ever used on an emergency basis, so we were generally at full capacity at Lady Lane when 21 beds were occupied,” she said.
“Whereas in this building, we have 37 beds – and a crash bed – nearly occupied all of the time now, so we’re pretty much twice as busy. And the need of the client has drastically changed over the past eight years that I’ve been working in this service.”
Ms Murphy added: “Going back to 2007/2008, we would have been primarily dealing with alcohol addiction among older men, predominantly older men, with only one or two young men in the hostel – and that’s now turned completely on its head, it tends to be all younger men now, and they’re getting younger and younger, 18-plus.”
Emily Murphy said McGwire House is increasingly receiving lots of 18-year-olds who have come “straight from the care system – they’ve grown up in care, having led a life of chaos as children – and then they’re left out at 18, essentially have to fend for themselves and that doesn’t work out for a lot of them because they just don’t have the life skills to live independently.”
She added: “Drug use is certainly on the increase in the city among younger men in the last few years and young men are presenting with more complex issues – by that I mean dual diagnoses between drug addiction and mental health problems. And one can sometimes be the cause of the other developing, sadly.”
Ms Murphy, along with a fellow project worker, undertake “one to one work with the residents when they initially present to the hostel…and if it’s within working hours, they’d be reverted to Waterford City (& County) Council, as all our referrals come through there.
“And if it’s out of hours, then we ourselves do the assessment and would provide a bed on an emergency basis, and then revert such an individual to the Council during regular working hours.
“So then the Council would approve somebody – or not – for approval and once somebody is approved, then we take them through a booking process, take some basic details and then show them around the hostel.
“We then give them a week or so in terms of a settling-in period and then take them through a client-plan, which is led by them, the residents themselves identify their needs in terms of linking in with relevant services, followed by our liaising with such services on their behalf.”
What most of us would consider basic form filling, such as dotting the line to get on the local authority housing list, may not necessarily be within the gift of residents to immediately deal with, and this is where McGwire House steps in.
“Quite basic things can sometimes take a great deal of time to work on,” said Ms Murphy. “But they have to get onto the housing list in order to, down the line, get Rent Allowance or a HAP payment, to move on from here…so to fill in the forms, they need to take a section of that form to be stamped and signed in the Tax Office, they need to get a birth cert and a payment slip; it might be the sort of thing that you or I could do within an hour, but for some of the lads here, given how chaotically they’ve been living, that might actually take a few weeks to get all of that together – but this helps to get some basic things in life that they almost certainly would not have made available to them if they’d not come through our doors.”
Emily Murphy added: “When residents come into us, all they have is what’s on their back or in a bag; and what the Vincent de Paul tries to facilitate is the means to fulfil residents’ basic needs – to get them a medical card, to get them a social welfare payment, to get them onto the housing list, so as to try and improve their circumstances towards living an independent life.”
But progress for residents on the path to independence is not always a given, Ms Murphy added.
“That’s not guaranteed at all,” she added. “We’d have a lot of people who’ve been through our services many, many times. Somebody might move on very quickly, and sometimes the reason they’ve come into us in the first place may not have been addressed by the time they’ve moved on, by personal choice in many instances – they may not want to link up with services, they may not want to addressed their addiction or their mental health issue – and they move on, find themselves homeless again, given that the same issues reoccur – and that can be frustrating from our perspective.
“As I said, what we offer here is client-led. We’re emergency providers and that’s what we do, even if someone has been in with us on a dozen or more times, there’ll still be a bed here for them.”