Kenny opens Dublin homeless centre


Taoiseach Enda Kenny kept homeless people waiting for more than an hour for their lunch today - but nobody said they minded.

The occasion was the formal opening of the Merchants Quay Project’s new Riverbank centre offering services for the homeless and the addicted.

The Riverside centre which is non-residential offers three free meals a day in a “client- respectful” atmosphere. Services include a primary care centre with medical and dental facilities and help with the practicalities of ending homelessness and addiction.

With the Taoiseach scheduled to arrive at 12.30pm, and to make a speech and tour the building, several sittings of lunch in the new 70-seat facility were deferred to begin not before 3pm.

However, when Mr Kenny arrived about 80 minutes late, there was not a murmur of impatience or criticism from his hosts or their clients.

A client called Brian from Cabra simply smiled. “They’re good here,” he said. Brian said he has been assessing services from the Merchant’s quay project for about three years, and comes here to eat, get medical help when needed and take part in drugs education courses which offer advice on safe injecting and needle exchanges.

He said last night would see him ringing the “freefone number” to see about getting into a hostel. But he said “the hostels are pretty full at the moment” and last night’s arrangements may have come down to accepting a sleeping bag from a hostel or from the agency Simon, and finding a sheltered and safe doorway. In the recent past the only time he hasn't needed a hostel or a doorway was when he was in hospital.

Tony Geoghegan the Riverside director said he was “not surprised” when on moving to the new centre, which has almost double the capacity of the old centre, that demand filled it up immediately. “We have known from experience there is a social cost to the recession”, he said, “it was the same in the 1980s, so no we were not surprised”.

As volunteers, staff and clients stood waiting Mark Kennedy head of day services said the new primary care services were a great asset. Many foreign people would not be able to access HSE services he said and the project was particularly grateful to a dentist who offered his services for free. “It would be great to get a few doctors who would like to volunteer a few hours a week” he said, smiling.