A former military hospital in Dublin that was transformed into a temporary night shelter to cope with a Christmas homeless crisis is now set to mark its second anniversary.
St Bricin’s is run by The Salvation Army, Dublin Simon Community and Irish Defence Force to offer accommodation and support to 25 men each night. However, the need for the service has exceeded capacity every night since it was opened on December 23, 2014.
The night shelter is based in the imposing St Bricin's, a former military hospital near Phoenix Park. But while the setting may be stark, the service being delivered within couldn't be more different. The Salvation Army, Dublin Simon Community and Irish Defence Force ensure residents have a safe and relaxed environment where they can get practical support from specially-trained staff and Salvation Army chaplain Major Stuart Dicker.
And as a church and a charity, The Salvation Army operates a chaplaincy service to offer advice and spiritual support.
St Bricin's also differs from other night shelters in Dublin in that residents arrive by minibus, having made their request for emergency accommodation earlier that day. It's very much in keeping with the military setting as the first convoy arrives around dinner time before the last corps of residents is dropped off around 9pm.
The Irish Defence Force continues to hold an active presence on site, which is managed by the Irish Army's medical corps, and each night supplies residents with food, hot drinks and other essentials.
Salvation Army programme co-ordinator Steve Loveland and senior project worker Eamonn Perkins share the day-to-day running of St Bricin’s Night Shelter, having started it with a kettle and a couple of military-issue camp beds.
Steve said: "Some people said the night shelter with its dormitory-style setting wouldn’t work. But we have shown there is a real need for it. Ask any man who comes here what they think of St Bricin’s. Everyone needs to belong to somewhere and so we feed that sense of belonging.
“Eamonn, myself and all the staff are not seen as authority figures. What we ask for is respect. We respect the residents and ask that they respect the staff.
“The defence force has been incredible over the past couple of years. Their relationship with the men, and perhaps their perception of homelessness, has changed. They bring in clothes for residents and chat with them. They now have a relationship with the men and see them as people.”