The new centre will help those who are homeless and/or have addiction issues to reintegrate with society. Pic: Ryan Tubridy and President Michael D Higgins
The new Jigginstown Manor centre for homeless people was officially opened by President Michael D Higgins earlier today.
The ceremony, which was presented by well-known presenter Ryan Tubridy, was attended by dozens of people between 11am and 1.20pm.
Homeless Care CLG partly-funded the reconstruction of the premises, which was first planned back in 2014, while the homelessness and addiction treatment charity Tiglin Challenge Limited, better known simply as Tiglin, now provide services at the site.
The construction of the facility has been strongly supported by Kildare County Council (KCC) and the Construction Industry Federation.
Attending the event were a number of public representatives, including Independent TD Dr Cathal Berry, Kildare Mayor Cllr Naoise Ó Cearúil, Independent Cllr Seamie Moore, Sinn Féin’s Réada Cronin TD and councillor Noel Connolly, and Green Party Cllr Colm Kenny and Senator Vincent P Martin.
Speaking ahead of the event, Mayor Ó Cearúil told the Leader: "This facility is desperately needed for Kildare, we are very lucky to have that opportunity to have it here, especially during a housing crisis.
"I have met one of the residents here, and fortunately he is settling in very well," he added.
Cllr Kenny, who grew up near Jigginstown Manor, also said: "I am delighted to be able to attend this particular shelter, and especially seeing the reuse and repurposing of a building that was idle for such a long time."
Ms Cronin told the Leader that she ‘absolutely’ believes that the new centre will make a difference.
She said: "I have been up and down here (the centre) a few times over the past few months, and it really is like a bridge for people who need that extra step to make their way in the world.
Réada Cronin TD and her secretary, Caroline Hogan
"It shows that when the community gets together, it’s amazing what we can do."
Claire Breen, who is the psychotherapist for King’s Hospital School in Palmerstown, also told the Leader that she came down to support Tiglin: "This centre will absolutely make a difference, I wish there were more like it out there (in Ireland)... I am excited to see what it can do (for its residents)."
Attendees were also treated to entertainment provided by Nás na Rí musical group and performers from Gerbola Circus, and were also allowed in to view one of the temporary accommodation areas within Jigginstown Manor.
Opening the ceremony, Ryan Tubridy briefly paid tribute to Charlie Bird, as well as Adam King, whom he said he both hugged recently.
He elaborated: "The reason I mention these two hugs is to show that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of Irish people, and being together, be it metaphorically or physically.
"Today, as I was wandering around here, I saw the most gigantic, meaningful, metaphorical hug; the kindness, heartfulness, and decency here (in Jigginstown Manor) is something of great beauty.
Aubrey McCarthy, Chairman of Tiglin, and Mayor Naoise Ó Cearúil in conversation with President Higgins and his wife Sabina
"I have met some of the people here, who have been taken out of the shadows, and have been given a chance, and I have also met some wonderful people here from Ukraine: you are more welcome than anyone here today."
Following his introduction, John Craddock of Homeless Care explained to guests the work that both organisations undertake in making sure that vulnerable people get the help that they need.
President Higgins then took to the stage to deliver a lengthy speech: "Thank you to those who showed Sabina and I your new homes here, and how delightful it was to see young people having accommodation and a reconnection to society.
He further paid tribute to KCC and Tiglin for their work in opening the centre: "This is an example of genuine community and cooperation that transcends boundaries."
President Higgins also went on an impassioned speech about the housing crisis in Ireland: "I often ask myself: ‘how Republican is what we created (referring to Ireland), and isn’t it sometimes closer to the Poor Law system that we’re departing from?’
"It is not a crisis anymore: it is a disaster, and I think we have to really think about meeting the basic needs of the people in the Republic."
The 81-year-old also referred to his experience in sociology: "The idea that hundreds of young people are sleeping under bridges… It's what I said to another sociologist, (this is) where there has been a failure too, because we have not taken enough understanding, from what we know from the research, the very different circumstances that people can find themselves homeless, such as generational rows, dependency of one kind or another, or addictions.
"Some of these reasons are unique, but the one thing that they all need, and the one thing that is being provided here, is an interdisciplinary approach.
He continued: "The great strength here is the offer for patience and understanding and reconnection, which is what we have been witnessing today.
"There has been an increase of 90 per cent in the homelessness of young people (in Ireland), and there are many cases about it to say that ‘the outlook is getting darker’, in relation to the middle part of this population.
"I feel that I as President have to speak very directly about this: housing and the basic needs of society should never have been left to the marketplace."
After a brief round of applause from onlookers, he added: "It is the mad, speculative money that is destroying our country, which we are welcoming, but we shouldn’t be."
Referring back to the ‘wonderful’ centre and how it came to be, President Higgins said: "Let all the county managers and directors of services around the country have a good, long look at what is happening in Wicklow and Kildare, and ask themselves the questions before their next monthly meeting: ‘Why aren’t we doing something similar? What is stopping us?’
He also paid tribute to the Traveller community and Ukrainian refugees within Ireland, as well as all young people throughout Ireland, referring to the latter a ‘a vulnerable but valuable’ asset.
Commenting after his speech, Ryan Tubridy thanked President Higgins, adding: "With great respect, and apolitically, I don’t think I have ever seen a speech like that before, and I believe people will be be reading this speech in years to come."
"I think something (special) happened on this stage today," he added.
Following this, Aubrey McCarthy, Chairman of Tiglin, unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the centre alongside President Higgins.
Aubrey McCarthy unveiling the plaque with President Higgins
Guest Alan Bobinac then took to the stage to reveal their story of how he came to Ireland a number of years ago and was left homeless, but was helped by Tiglin.
Cian O’Melia, a musician who struggled with homelessness and addiction issues in his past became emotional while speaking about the importance of centres such as Jigginstown Manor, saying: "This is what can be done when people come together."
He then performed his own original song, ‘How Many Souls’.
Alan Bobinac’s brother Jay, who was also homeless at one point, then took to the stage and revealed that he is now the manager of Jigginstown Manor.
He also presented a special pin to both President Higgins and the First Lady as gratitude for their attendance and support.
According to Tiglin, the group serves meals to up to 300 people each day through its various facilities, and also provides housing and emergency accommodation referrals alongside addiction and rehabilitation support to those who they engage with.
In addition, Tiglin has the following resources available: 30 beds for men, 12 beds for women, an aftercare programme and community employment supports, a family support programme and a children’s play therapist.
Further information about the new centre can be found here.
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