Newbridge shelter told not to house women and children

By Paula Campbell


By Paula Campbell

A short-stay night shelter in Newbridge has been directed not to accept women or women with children by the St Vincent de Paul, it has emerged this week.

A short-stay night shelter in Newbridge has been directed not to accept women or women with children by the St Vincent de Paul, it has emerged this week.

Women and children who turn up at the door of Michael Garry House in Eyre Street are currently being sent to a bed and breakfast establishment instead.

This arrangement has been deemed as unsuitable by those who run the shelter locally for the St Vincent De Paul (SVP).

SVP National Management claims that the complex requirements of homeless men and vulnerable women do not mix.

Michael Garry House was opened in 1997 as a night shelter catering for men, women and women with children and is run by St Christopher’s Conference as part of SVP.

Local spokesperson and former Michael Garry House President Tim Gallagher said the decision to no longer accommodate women and children at Michael Garry House had been “forced upon” them since 2010.

Mr Gallagher added, however, that this policy had been only fully implemented since last May.

“A number of new initiatives were imposed within the house to ensure greater privacy for women and women with children if and when they presented looking for assistance,” he said, adding that local management were not happy with the decision.

A compromise of sorts was reached with SVP National Management in June 2012 in which SVP agreed to finance the setting up of an alternative residence by renting a private house locally for women and women with children.

“This had been in place until April of this year when SVP National Management withdrew funding,” he added.

“Despite our efforts, the view from the National Management Council was that we were to desist from this practice.

“We have since put in place a procedure to provide accommodation and support in a local B & B should a woman or a woman with children turn up at Michael Garry House.

“We know that this is far from ideal, and is not comparable to the specialised and secure service we have provided for women and women with children for over 15 years.

“We feel it important to inform everyone who contributes to Michael Garry House, as many people’s generosity was based on the fact that the hostel caters for all people regardless of gender. Sadly, this is the case no more.”

SVP spokesperson Jim Walsh, in response, said mixing homeless men and women in the shelter was not in line with the SVP duty of care required to all those who avail of their services.

“Charitable work brings with it a duty of care to all those who avail of our services,” he added.

“The National Management Council of St Vincent de Paul believes this duty cannot be adequately fulfilled at Michael Garry House by mixing homeless men, many with very complex needs, with vulnerable women and women with children, at this service which is currently a night shelter.

“This view has been supported by the SVP specialist staff with experience in the management of hostels and the protection of children and vulnerable adults, as well as an independent expert review carried out with the agreement of St Christopher’s Conference.”

According to the Michael Garry House spokesperson, SVP National Management could continue financing Michael Garry House for women and women with children until such time as a new a women’s refuge – An Teach Tearmann – opens its doors in Kildare.

The state-of-the-art refuge centre in Kildare town for women victims of domestic violence was built in 2012.

However, it has yet to open to the public, due to lack of significant funding from the HSE.

Manager Jacinta Carey said the reality is that there is nowhere in Kildare for women and children escaping domestic violence.

“The HSE has not released the necessary funding,” she said adding that, until they do, she has no “opening date in mind”.

SVP spokesperson Jim Walsh said that “there is no question that if a woman turns up tonight at Michael Garry House, she will be helped”.

At the time of going to press, the HSE had failed to comment on the issue.