Hostel gearing up for 24-hours

MICHAEL Garry House, the hostel for homeless people in Newbridge, is gearing up for a costly 24-hour emergency service to accommodate guests during severe weather.

MICHAEL Garry House, the hostel for homeless people in Newbridge, is gearing up for a costly 24-hour emergency service to accommodate guests during severe weather.

The house has to go on a 24-hour opening basis to accommodate all guests during any severe weather such as the month long snow fall that grounded the county last winter.

It costs roughly between E135,000 and E150,000 a year to run the house, but the Government only provides E79,000 of that, leaving a significant shortfall that must be made up by fund raising. According to Paul Hutchinson, Project Manager who has been with the shelter for the past 14 years, a 24-hour operation puts a strain on all resources.

“When the snow came last year we opened day and night for the whole month which required extra staff, extra heating, and food,” he said. “To prepare for any bad weather this year I have moved five guys in the last two weeks freeing up five beds. Kildare County Council refers one person after the other or people just show up themselves. I’ve got a couple of extra beds this year for the sitting room. I know it’s not great but I would use them in an emergency rather than turn people out in minus 17 degrees.”

The house can cater for up to 16 people on any given night, and regularly has between eight and 10 people there each night.

Thankfully nobody was turned away last year during the heavy snow but people did have to sleep on the floor.

“We made them as comfortable as possible,” he said. “It was a bit packed alright but it was better than being out there. The army were great and we would have been lost with out them. People also needed to come during the day for a bit of heat and dinner. They just couldn’t afford to have the heating on expect at night time. I got two more emergency beds so I can take tow more adults if need be.”

And as a last resort guests bed and breakfasts may be an option this year.

“I’m hoping there will be funding to send people to B&B’s if the situation arises,” he added. “I have to take it all as it comes and see what happens. We are just about getting by at the moment. We have asked the Department of the Environment for funding for a 24-hour operation in 2008 but the funding wasn’t there. I expect to have eleven people staying on Christmas Day and at least eight over for dinner. The staff work for free on that day to give something back to Michael Garry House and it’s fantastic here at Christmas. There are a variety of reasons why people become homelessness but it is mainly through addiction though at the moment there is a new type - people who have lost their job, can’t afford the mortgage and can no longer take the pressure.”

Michael Garry House accepts all donations including food, clothes and cash.