‘Heartbreak at every corner, on every street’

by Gazette Reporter

For Geraldine Molloy, volunteering with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) raises two conflicting emotions: heartbreak and reward.

The mother of three daughters, Sinead, Ceire and Caitlin (and one precious grandchild), Geraldine says the pain and pure heartbreak she feels for the homeless and hurting in Dublin city today is only marginally offset by knowing her contribution is so appreciated.

Geraldine lives in the Custom House Harbour area and originally joined ICHH when her sister

Mary persuaded her to come down “and maybe give a few haircuts”.

She told Dublin Gazette: “I had to retire from hairdressing owing to arthritis, but that day I got stuck in and cut more heads than I’d done in years!”

She added: “Don’t think because they’re homeless that people lose their self-respect, they don’t. They want to look as well and fashionable as anyone. They were probably the fussiest clients I ever had but I was so glad to be of help.

“We are often afraid to approach a homeless person; we fear them, we are wary of them. I was like that, but after that day, I realised they are the same as you and I, the barriers came down for me.”

Geraldine progressed from cutting hair to making sandwiches, then assisting with the outreach food trips with the Dublin charity founded by Cllr Anthony Flynn.

She said: “The outreach teams bring hot drinks, soups, pot noodles, tea and coffee, fruit, sandwiches, crisps and chocolate. It also provides hygiene packs, toothpaste, mini shower gels, soaps, underwear, spare heavy clothing in the winter.

“If we know someone is badly in need of fresh clothing, we will take note and come back with spare changes, layers of clothing in the winter along with sleeping bags.

“When you see how much it means to them… if they’re awake, they want to have a chat with us, it’s not just the food, snacks and clothing, it has to do with a friendly ear, someone to talk to them – to treat them as a human.

“We don’t go out at night till 11pm, and do the rounds till 1am. The ICHH volunteer is probably the last person they’ll see that night and they’re so appreciative, so mannerly…

“Most of them say ‘Ye are angels’, it makes me feel so humble, but at the same time, it is heart breaking.”

Geraldine described the work of ICHH as “wrap around people support”.

“You meet lots of people who have no addiction problems, and they don’t want to go into hostels as they are afraid of others with drink and drug issues. They claim they feel safer on the street; some are men who lost a job, then their home or a relationship break up.

“It’s mainly men who don’t cope well on their own, and it’s not always feasible to live with other family members in overcrowded homes.

“Their parents are often elderly, living in complex or old folks home, they ‘couch surf’ here or there, when available and then back to the streets. It’s so sad”.

Babs Empowerment Programme

Geraldine’s nephew William Cummings establishing the Babs Empowerment Programme (085 8616217) about two and a half years ago, following the sad death of a family member, Barbara.

“It’s a helpline, a friendly voice to speak to,” said Geraldine. “Volunteers are not trained counsellors but they’ve done a course with Mental Health Ireland and they make themselves available to listen.

Geraldine, who has been out six days a week during the Covid crisis, said: “The van drivers have been brilliant during the lockdown, they were doing 10 -12 hours a day.

“They’ve all shown such kindness and christianity. They’re good people, mainly from the inner city, and just so good.

“It’s just heart breaking firstly that we have to do this; but please remember, the person on the street is just a ‘normal’ person who’s lost everything, an ordinary person like you, without a home.”

ICHH is now starting social distanced volunteer induction training. If anyone from your company is looking to volunteer with ICHH, please contact the volunteer coordinator Ann at volunteering@ichh.ie. The induction will be specific to outreach volunteering

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