By Zoha Khan
THE WORD homelessness is one that many will have heard over the past few years.
This immediately brings the national issue to mind. Images of helpless men, women and children emerge.
Some live in hotels while others are forced onto the streets. One can only imagine the daily hardship these people face as they live in constant uncertainty without a place to call home.
Many of us may turn a blind eye to this problem but then again there are those who wish to help these people get their lives back on track.
In the heart of Kilkenny City is The Good Shepherd Centre. The centre works with men over 18) who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
It offers emergency accommodation, transitional accommodation and resettlement services with the aim of returning people to sustained independent living.
The need for organisations like The Good Shepherd is evident from statistics.
According to the Homeless Report December 2017 by The Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government, 49 people were homeless during the week of December 25-31, 2017 in Kilkenny.
Currently the organisation is housing between 24 and 26 men. Many residents admit that The Good Shepherd did more than house them.
It provided essential support. Counsellors are always available. Former resident Thomas Moore described his experience: “I took it as a chance to change myself and to use their resources to my advantage i.e. sort to out whatever issues I had.”
Various activities are organised to keep residents busy, a choir, movie nights and days out.
The organisation also provides after-care support for clients to assist in resettlement.
In my opinion the most important work done by The Good Shepherd is their attempt to change public misconceptions towards homelessness.
They host talks in schools to educate children about the growing realities of this national issue and to teach them that homeless people are, at the end of day, normal people.
A staff member of the Good Shepherd told The Reporter: “I could be downtown with one of the lads we work with here and no one would know whether he was a friend or whether he was someone homeless.
“The fact of the matter is that he just doesn’t have a house to call his own for different circumstances.”
In previous years there were three main reasons attributed to homelessness: addiction, mental health and relationship breakdown.
However, with the economic downturn this changed. There has been a stark increase in the number of people who are classified as economically homeless.
There was even a time in the Good Shepherd Centre when a substantial number of clients were over the age of 50.
All of these men had enough money to pay for house deposits but were unable to find affordable accommodation because of the huge increase in prices as a result of the housing shortage.
The Good Shepherd also provides support for women and children who are homeless.
At the moment, they have three families living in their accommodations. In most cases when a family becomes homeless they are relocated to B&Bs or hotels.
This charity receives the greatest portion of funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Kilkenny County Council.
A staff member said: “With the growing needs there has to be growing money as well.”
The Good Shepherd relies on the generosity of the public.
Future fundraising events include parachute club with Skydive Ireland for which they are still looking for participants and a bikers’ club fundraising event.
A date has not yet been set for either of these events. Registration fee for the Skydive is €30.
Other fundraising events include bag-packing at SuperValu, Market Cross Shopping Centre, Kilkenny on August 3, 10am to 6pm.
* Zoha is a Pakistani who moved to Ireland at the age of 12. She completed her second-level education at Presentation Secondary School, Kilkenny.
She is currently doing her Bachelors in Journalism and New Media at the University of Limerick.