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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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There was a queue of people waiting to use Dublin's new homeless café when it opened last night

Merchant’s Quay runs a new night café, and its opening is due to the 20-point plan drafted up after Jonathan Corrie’s death.

MQI 2

IN DECEMBER 2014, Jonathan Corrie’s body was found lying prone just across from Leinster House. A homeless father of two, he had died near where the leaders of the country work.

It was a jarring moment for Ireland’s government, and the country as a whole, and the response was immediate. A homelessness forum was held in the capital, and Environment Minister Alan Kelly pledged that no one would have to sleep rough in Dublin at Christmas, unless they made that choice themselves.

20-point plan

A 20-point plan was drafted in an effort to tackle the homeless issue. One of the initiatives to come out of this was a Night Café at Merchant’s Quay, which opened at 11pm last night.

The centre usually operates day services from 7.30am to 8.30pm, and this new service will run from 11pm to 7.30am. People can stay on after 7.30am for breakfast, meaning they won’t have to leave.

The night service isn’t a drop-in one – it can only be accessed through the local authority’s ‘housing first’ service facility.

Mark Kennedy, day services manager of Merchant’s Quay, said that Jonathan Corrie himself had used the services of Merchant’s Quay. This adds a poignant edge to last night’s opening.

“We are glad to see something happening. Yes, it is a shame that Jonathan Corrie had to die there back in early December. He used this service, and you do wonder what would he have thought?” he said.

It has resulted in this 20-point plan from the minister which is doing an awful lot. He’s got a mix there of short term and long term things. So the bottom line is something is being done.

MQI 1 Merchant's Quay

Kennedy said it is a good thing that public opinion engendered this urgency. “Still, in saying that, we do give credit to Alan Kelly the Minister for getting all the agencies together, getting them all into one room, hearing all the ideas, and coming up with this plan.”

A helping hand

At the Night Café, people can get hot food and drink, have a shower, and most importantly speak to the staff about moving on in their lives. They can link in with the people who can help them sustain accommodation, get help for addiction or mental health issues.

“We can get very good outcomes with people on the mental health front,” said Kennedy. “We’ve seen a number of instances where people have been on the street with real florid psychiatric symptoms, you just get them in and get them seen in psychiatric services and there is a rapid improvement.”

The hope is that the night service might be used by people who haven’t gotten in touch with homeless services already. “We believe there are people using squats, or staying in internet cafés overnight,” said Kennedy, adding that he thinks the additional beds have also led to new faces getting in touch.

But one huge issue that he hasn’t seen change with yet is rent allowance. “At the end of the day, a lot of these measures are short term,” he said. “You can see the relief – they are homeless and they have some chance of getting a bed tonight. Before, there was anxiety.”

Queuing to get in

Last night, there was already a small queue at 7.30pm for the service. Often this is because the space can only hold a certain amount of people, and during the busy times it operates a ‘one in, one out’ system. But Kennedy knows that there is more to ending homelessness than providing one type of service.

“I hope that it isn’t the case that people are queueing outside to use the service. I hope this is a stepping stone to a proper bed – this is not an accommodation service,” said Kennedy. “So you would hope that the people that are in here… that there is a capacity to deal with them and to address their needs.”

Read: In his own words: Jonathan Corrie on homelessness – and hoping for a chance>

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