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Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness— Homelessness— Trained volunteers providing one to one support, practical help and companionship to men moving out of Back Lane.



CONTENTS Introduction


Vision, Mission and Values of Depaul Ireland


Back Lane Community Befriending Programme


Programme Developments in 2011


• • • •

Hidden Talents ‘No Coins, Just Change’ Peer Support Goes from Strength to Strength Social Activities

Befriending in Action– Participant Stories


• David • Noel

What Our Volunteers have to Say


• Tina • George

Statistics 2012


Special Mentions


• Thank you to Sr Eileen Buckley

In Memory


• A Sad Farewell to Fran McHugh

Closing Remarks




INTRODUCTION Back Lane Hostel provides emergency and long-term accommodation to service users who are homeless. The staff team work hard a resettlement support to successfully move service users on to independent accommodation. The keyworking support and many of the informal social supports that the staff, volunteers and other service users at the hostel provide is suddenly gone once a service user moves on to living independently in the community. This can lead to service users feeling isolated and lonely in their new accommodation and this is a significant contributing factor to the reasons why some service users return to homelessness services. The service provided by the Depaul Ireland Community Befriending Programme aims to combat this issue of social isolation and to improve the possibilities of successful reintegration into community for the service users who move out of Back Lane Hostel. The service users referred to the Community Befriending Programme are all making positive steps towards independent living and have moved or are in the process of moving into either private rented or local authority accommodation.

Now that these service users have a place to call home they gradually begin to feel part of their local community and society at large. This report for 2012 outlines the positive impact the Community Befriending Programme has in the lives of the service users who are supported by our volunteers and highlights some of the achievements of our participants. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, who supported the founding of this programme and who have continued to support it financially every year. I would also like to thank them for their recognition of the value of the Community Befriending Programme in the lives of the service users who move into the community. Equally the Back Lane Community Befriending Programme would not exist were it not for the commitment and dedication of its wonderful team of volunteers. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, continued dedication and unyielding support in 2012.

Margo Fox Depaul Ireland Back Lane Community Befriending Coordinator


VISION, MISSION AND VALUES OF DEPAUL IRELAND The Back Lane Community Befriending Programme is service provided by Depaul Ireland in partnership with the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Depaul Ireland was established in Ireland in late 2002 and in Northern Ireland in 2005 and now manages 15 specialist services. Depaul Ireland belongs to a group structure and has strong links with our other family members - in UK, Slovakia, Ukraine, USA and most recently France.

Our vision is that everyone should have a place to call home and a stake in their community

Our mission is to offer homeless and disadvantaged people the opportunity to fulfil their potential and make positive informed choices about their future. Our values are; We celebrate the potential of people We put our words into action We aim to take a wider role in civil society We believe in rights and responsibilities

BACK LANE COMMUNITY BEFRIENDING PROGRAMME The Back Lane Community Befriending Programme was established to:

• Provide a continuum of care to service users making a positive step out of homelessness towards independent living. • Recruit, train and support a dedicated volunteer group who can offer informal but structured support to former service users that move back into community living. • Support Back Lane service users in making the change from living in a supported environment to living independently • Minimise the risk of return to homelessness for those who move out of Back Lane • Provide a contact point and a referral agent to appropriate community support services such as addiction services, resettlement support etc • Facilitate early intervention and prevent the loss of tenancies.



Breaking the cycle of homelessness

2012 was another very successful year for the Community Befriending Programme as 41 of the 42 participants we worked with are maintaining their tenancies.

Supporting the participants

Support for the participants is provided by a part time coordinator, a social activities organiser and a team of dedicated and committed volunteers. 2012 saw the further expansion of the role of peer support within the programme. The team of volunteers offer practical supports to the participants such as sourcing accommodation options and helping with paperwork, but it is the emotional support and listening ear that is of greatest value. In 2012 depression, addiction and loneliness were the greatest challenges faced by the participants in the Community Befriending Programme. In many cases they do not have strong family supports or close friendships. Actively engaging in the unique social support offered by the volunteers in the Community Befriending Programme can result in substantial change for participants. Over time participants often re-establish connections with family and are proud to speak of their activities and achievements as part of the programme.


PROGRAMME DEVELOPMENTS IN 2012 Hidden Talents It has to be said that 2012 really was a year of uncovering talent for the participants of the Community Befriending Programme. In May 2012 John Devlin and Greg Davidson had their poems published in a collection called “Don’t Go There” by acclaimed poet Colm Keegan. The launch of the book took place in the Unitarian Church on St Stephens Green. In June 2012, one participant & our peer support volunteer featured in the 13 Raw Photography Exhibition in Filmbase in Temple Bar. They both spoke eloquently at the launch. Also in June 2012, the team started work on a short film called “No Coins Just Change”. This was a massive undertaking as we had no experience whatsoever in this area.

The general feeling among the participants was summed up by some of their initial comments – “You have got to be kidding!” “How on earth are we supposed to do that?” “That’s just not going to happen”. Then they met the two volunteers who were there to support them and gradually they came to believe that maybe, just maybe they could do this. This film is due for launch in March 2013 so obviously they did succeed!



No Coins, Just Change Project None of this would have been possible were it not for the amazing commitment of film maker Ger O’Donnell. Ger came up with the idea for the project and directed it beautifully. Jacinta Owens did an excellent job capturing the ideas of the participants and producing the script. Katie Hennessy was always at hand to help out. They voluntarily offered their professional skills and many positive personal traits. They saw the potential in each individual and gave them the confidence to stand up and show what they can do. On behalf of Depaul Ireland and the participants of the Community Befriending Service I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to The 5 characters on screen were played by them. Noel, Greg, Leo, David and Gerry. Behind the scenes Aaron and Danny worked on Margo Fox camera and sound. Aaron designed the Community Befriending Coordinator poster for the launch and Alan wrote a very touching poem. It was fantastic to see such amazing talent emerging right before our very eyes. The participants all have a story to tell, a story of ups and downs and the challenges in their lives. This project is all about their success, their diligence, determination and enthusiasm. They started with a blank page and no knowledge of how to go about making a short film. After attending more than 40 workshops they can now speak knowledgeably about scriptwriting, lighting set up and sound equipment set up, scene direction and camera operation – not to mention the great acting talents we have uncovered. The short film will be launched in March 2013 in the Lighthouse Cinema.


the film. One thing all the participants have is dedication. I wonder how many courses in Dublin, or the country, can say they have 100% attendance, but we did. If you are reading this, you probably have an idea of what the Community Befriending participants have been through in their lives. And they continue to have a daily mission to accomplish goals many of us take for granted – a place to live, personal safety, making new friendships. Scriptwriter & Volunteer Jacinta Owens writes about her experience working with Befriending Participants. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous before meeting the Community Befriending group for the first time. I had been through the application, interview and induction process with the Depaul staff, but there wasn’t much they could do to prepare me entirely for what lay ahead. I think all of the volunteer filmmakers had reservations about “selling” our project to the Community Befriending group. We already had this idea that they would be tough guys and a “tough crowd”. At the start, we asked the participants to meet us one-on-one and tell us what they thought the project would involve and what ideas, time and experience they may be able to bring to it. We were met with such positivity and energy; they surpassed my expectations from the get-go.

The Community Befriending Programme is an absolute lifeline to all who participate. It was obvious early on in the project that the group of participants we were working with were creative in so many different ways but had little outlet for it in their daily lives. I think that’s why they stuck with the film for so long and gave it so much commitment and energy. They could have easily spent their evenings in a number of different ways, but they chose to be involved in creating something that they could look at and say “I made that”. They couldn't have done that without the Community Befriending Programme and what's more, I would never have had the pleasure of meeting, working with and learning from such a talented and experienced group of people.”

“In a short little questionnaire we gave the participants at the start of the project, we asked what they hoped to achieve We quickly established a core group of from the film project and there was one participants for the project, each with common resounding response: to be inunique talents to bring to our new and volved and show what I can do. Which of exciting film production course. Some had award-winning carpentry skills, some us doesn’t want that?” had done a bit of acting, and we even had a poet who wrote a piece especially for



Producer,Director and Volunteer Ger O’Donnell writes about his experience. “As a community artist developing arts projects with various groups throughout Ireland I felt a lot of community arts projects underestimated the skill, ability, adaptability and potential of certain stigmatised groups. For the past couple of years I've been developing a community film project, where I approach various groups and teach them film-making skills. Making a film is never an easy task, but when it's a first time for all involved and Within these sessions I develop and deon a next to nothing needs a sign modules around the skill level of the considerable amount of patience, undergroup and by recognising different indistanding and dedication. Our film tested vidual's talents. The reason for a project every boundary and posed many, many like this is to instil a sense of selfobstacles. The more obstacles arose, the esteem and hope and to give groups a more determined we became to see it voice through the medium of film. through to the end. It was unanimous that When I met the Befriending Conothing was going to stop our little film! ordinator and saw how she believed in It is very important when watching “No and championed her group it gave me Coins Just Change” to remember that the great confidence to move forward with the gentlemen from the Befriending proBefriending film project. After meeting gramme knew nothing about film making Jacinta Owens (creative writer) I knew the or script writing before this film. It is also project and its content were in safe important to remember that this course is hands. designed to give them a chance to tell At the start of the project the guy's ques- their story. tioned their ability as film makers, actors “No Coins Just Change” is a testament to and writers but after just a few seswhat can be achieved when a group sions myself and Jacinta were amazed at of individuals puts aside self doubt and the talent, commitment and confidence the limitations society project on to them. the guys exerted. I believe to give someone a voice, is to During these sessions Jacinta harnessed give someone hope. the guys’ ideas and words and wove them This is their voice and this is their story!” into a cohesive piece. I familiarised the group with film making equipment and broke down technical jargon into layman’s terms.


PROGRAMME DEVELOPMENTS IN 2012 Peer Support Goes from Strength to Strength

Community Befriending outings. It was brilliant to accompany him to our ChristWilliam Cassidy spent 9 months in Back mas dinner in a fine restaurant in Temple Lane Hostel and when he moved on to live Bar. in his own flat he participated in the Com- Another highlight for me in 2012 was the munity Befriending Programme for over 2 work I did giving talks to schools. I feel years. William juggled many challenges that this is a real help to the next generaat this time and says without the help of tion. I did not realise how my personal his volunteers at this time he would not experience with mental health, depreshave made it. He decided to join the team sion and drug use would help them to and became Depaul Ireland’s first peer open up and have an honest conversation support volunteer. In 2011 he won a pres- about these difficult topics. I speak about tigious Ireland Involved Award. In 2012 the stigma attached to homelessness AND William continued to focus on making a to mental health. I also explain it is not real difference. Here is what he has to say always easy to find the right person to get about his volunteer experience: help and advise them to never ever give up. Keep trying until you find the answer “2012 has been a year of first class learnfor you. For me psychotherapy was the ing for me. I am getting a huge amount of answer. All my life I thought I was worthsupport from the staff in Depaul and really less and I had no place in this world. I feel like I am working as part of the thought there was something seriously team. There is no distinction made bewrong with me. At age 40 I started worktween me and other members of staff/ ing as a volunteer in the Befriending team. volunteers. At the same time the particiGradually I discovered a real purpose in pants in the Community Befriending Prolife. I am passionate about the work I do gramme and residents in Back Lane still befriending, giving peer support, fundraissee me as one of them. It is like the best ing and awareness raising. My strong of both worlds. message is to keep going and do not give up. There were times when I wanted to My one to one work has increased this year and I am now offering twice as much give up and thankfullly with lots support I am here today and I am proud of who I support to the lad I am working with and accompanying him to appointments. Our am.” friendship has deepened and he is opening up to me more and more. He is now William Cassidy getting involved in pool competitions as Peer Support Volunteer well as socialising with me and at



Social Activities and Committee Meetings This year's social activities programme has seen an incremental increase in the numbers taking part and has seen a consolidation in the sense of the participant’s identification with the Community Befriending Programme.

increased emotional and interpersonal skills, along with the concurrent decreasing in their feelings of social isolation."

The activities chosen by participants in 2012 were varied. There is always great interest in cultural events and artistic exSince the inception of the Befriending hibitions. 15 men enjoyed the Human Social Committee in 2011, which follows Body exhibition. Others favored Dublin the Depaul Ireland value of service user Castle or the Hugh Lane gallery. Our two participation in all services, the growth in theatre nights at the Abbey and Peacock the numbers coming to the monthly social were enjoyed by 30 people. In the sumevents has grown steadily again in the last mer months the preference is for outdoor activities. The group was delighted with a year. The Social Committee is a peer led group that is made up of Befriending par- free day fishing in Dublin Bay on board ticipants who meet regularly to plan and Rinn Voyager which sailed out of Poolbeg. Those who did not have “sea legs” went organise events for the benefit of all the lake fishing in Corkagh Park. In August 15 Befriending participants. participants travelled to Belfast. We reThe continued social support of the Com- ceived great insight from black cab tour guides who took us to see the famous wall munity Befriending Programme, in the form of social events and committee meet- murals on the Falls Rd and Shankill Rd. ings, has allowed participants to develop positive peer relationships, in a more sta- Alan Maddock Social Activities Organiser ble and longer lasting social group environment. This has helped to increase and strengthen the fragile social networks of each participant and has allowed for


COMMUNITY BEFRIENDING IN ACTION– PARTICIPANT STORIES David “I think the 13 raw exhibition was great to show people the experience of being homeless. Electric Picnic was amazing fun. Getting out into the place and meeting new people, getting to talk to people. Getting to talk to people about my experiences with Depaul Ireland was brilliant, and especially experiences with befriending. It was great to tell people how befriending can help you put your life back on track. I loved doing the movie, the experience of how to set up a studio, record sound and put a film together was great, I wouldn't normally get a chance to do it and it was a brilliant experience. Working with homeless people and giving them the opportunity to make a movie is so worthwhile. Through the social committee meetings I get a say in befriending events which gives me a say into what we can do. Depaul Ireland are really helpful at getting people involved in events, as well as meeting others. They are especially good at supporting service users like myself in finding somewhere to live.”



Noel “I came to Backlane in 2008. I signed myself up to the Befriending before I left Back Lane. I went to meetings about the Community Befriending Programme. It got me involved in a computer course and gardening in Clondalkin which I enjoyed. I started meeting up regularly with my Community Befriending Volunteer. We would go for tea and coffee and learn to play pool. I really enjoy this part of the befriending programme. I did a photography course with the IFC and I made my own camera. The Community Befriending Programme arranged to have four gardening plots from Oliver Bond flats. I love growing my own vegetables. Hopefully in the near future we will get more gardening as I love gardening. As part of the programme we have group events. We have gone fishing, the Viking Splash tour, the Olympia Theatre, recording studios and bowling. We have an annual Christmas dinner and receive lovely Christmas hampers.

Depaul Ireland had a tent at the Electric Picnic which I helped out with. We talked to people there about life on the streets. I gave a speech on stage about what life as a person who is homeless is like. I felt on top of the world giving the speech. I felt like I had made a difference. Recently I was involved in culture night. I dressed up as the bag lady again! I was interviewed on live television. I spoke about the film, homelessness and the befriending programme. Visitors came into Back Lane hostel that evening and it was very busy. I felt on top of the world that night. I met people from the ‘old school’ who I had not seen in years. I attend the committee meetings where participants of the Befriending programme decide what we will do for the next 12 months. It is good as it is about you. Sometimes I feel like the ‘top man’ or ‘boss’ at these meetings.

Overall I think the Community Befriending Programme is the best thing that ever We have recently made a film called ‘No happened to me. It is a pity there is not Coins, Just Change’. I played a bag lady. I more of it. I had a lot of grief between dressed up as a woman and had a trolley 1993 and 2011. Befriending has helped me with bags and I had to go and ask for a lot to get through that. The programme change. I found making the film deadly. and staff have helped me through and There was great craic and great laughs brought me back to the land of the living. while making it. Everyone got on well and The Community Befriending Programme we had great fun. has prevented me from becoming homeless again. I know that I am wanted and I was interviewed by Matt Cooper on ‘The loved in the world and helped. I want to Last Word’ on Today fm. The interview was thank all the staff and volunteers of the about being homeless and what Ireland Community Befriending Programme and can do to help people who are homeless. hopefully the gardening will come back It felt great to be interviewed by Matt again.” Cooper. He was very nice and it was great being on the radio.


THE TEAM OF VOLUNTEERS In 2012, 35 people from all walks of life worked as Community Befriending Volunteers. They were recruited through word of mouth and targeted media. In selecting the team the programme coordinator aims for a high degree of diversity. This creates an effective group dynamic and ensures a wide range of skills and interests within the team. The volunteers commit to 2– 3 hours per week and agree to stay on the team for a minimum of 12 months allowing time for meaningful relationships to form. Volunteers receive induction and ongoing training so they fully understand the ethos of Depaul Ireland, the needs of our service users and the protocols of the programme. All volunteers are skilled at maintaining professional boundaries. They also have knowledge of the various support services to refer the men to as required.

“I started volunteering with Depaul Ireland’s Community Befriending Programme in July 2011. As a stay at home mum, I was looking for a social volunteer opportunity that would get me back into the world of adults. The Community Befriending Programme has fully lived up to my expectations. Frank was the first person I met through the program. As he was very set in his ways we both felt a real achievement every time we entered a new cafe and sometimes even a new part of town. Frank expressed that he looked forward to our meet ups, it was a great chance to catch up on the latest movie news as we are both movie buffs. I recently began meeting with Peter a lovely man with lots of enthusiasm and willing to grab at any opportunity to better his circumstances. Peter isn't too comfortable going into cafe's so we get take out coffees and walk around town chatting. The grounds of Trinity are a real favorite. He loves the different outings that are arranged and rarely misses one. For Peter Depaul Ireland was there when he needed them. Initially he didn't avail of the Community Befriending Programme on leaving Back lane hostel but when he did reach a time when he really needed help one call to the Community Befriending Programme and he was set up with a volunteer to talk to. He is going through a rough time currently and he wanted to thank the service for just being there for him. It is disturbing to see a participant (and now friend) go through a bad time, and this happens on occasions but I think it’s important and reassuring to know that Depaul Ireland are there to help the participants get through a rough patch whether it’s just someone to talk things through with or if they need a referral for more professional help and advice.” Tina Community Befriending Volunteer


“Around this time last year, I was halfway through my EVS experience. I was a full time volunteer in a Depaul Ireland emergency hostel for intravenous drug users. I was given the opportunity to witness the interactions and the behaviours of our people while they were indoors and sheltered. But then I started wondering what would they be doing outside, on the streets? How would a typical day be? What conversations they would have with their friends? So I decided to do some extra volunteering with the Community Befriending Programme.


could not have been so effective if we hadn’t also talked about depression, relapses, guilt, family and personal problems. Like a guardian angel the programme’s coordinator is watching over us and makes sure that we both get the support we need in order to make this relationship work. Needless to say I would recommend this volunteering experience to everyone that would like to develop communication skills, crisis intervention skills, active listening skills, organisational skills and the list goes on. C’mon join us!!!”

And I believe it is a wonderful learning experience. The programme has surGeorge passed my expectations. I have learned Community Befriending Volunteer so many things. Being drug free or alcohol free is not a guarantee for returning to society and playing an active role. You also need a social web that will support, inspire and nourish you. That’s where Befriending comes into the picture. Myself and my Community Befriending participant have been through a lot of high and lows. But that’s how life is! We have tried Mongolian food, we have had great lattes in the coolest cafés of Dublin, we have talked about healthy nutrition and we are currently thinking about organising an exhibition! This relationship







Number of Volunteers






Number of Participants












Number of OneOne-toto-One LinkLink-Ins Volunteer/Service User






Number of Social Activities Held






Total Number of Attendees at Social Activities








SPECIAL MENTION Sr Eileen Buckley A word of thanks is long overdue for the time and energy that Sr Eileen Buckley has contributed to the Community Befriending Programme over the years. She has been a champion of the Community Befriending Programme from the very first day of the programme. When she was a member of our Steering Committee she always spoke on behalf of the service users to ensure their needs were met when they moved on. There is no doubt that when the men moved on from Back Lane and got their own flats, they missed the games of pool, cards and informal chats with her. She advised them to stay in contact through Community Befriending and they are able to do just that. She is so popular we are unable to match her with one individual so she works on a request basis. We want to thank Sr Eileen for everything she has done (and continues to do) for us.


IN MEMORY Fran McHugh Fran McHugh was one of the first participants in the Befriending programme. He left Back Lane in 2006 and moved into his own Dublin City Council flat. At this time volunteers were making home visits and Fran enjoyed a 4 year friendship with Orla and Denise. He became incredibly social and attended all the committee meetings promoting outdoor events such as fishing, pitch and putt or day trips. We could always count on him to provide great entertainment. Fran knew everything that was going on in the world and carried around newspaper clippings with interesting and funny articles to share with us (not to mention the risque jokes that caused many a blush on volunteer faces!) He was the backbone of our gardening project in Bridgefoot St. and very generous sharing the harvest every year. Sadly Fran passed away suddenly in May 2012 and he is truly missed by his many friends.



CLOSING REMARKS 2012 has been another very successful year for the Community Befriending programme. In keeping with our Depaul Ireland mission the Community Befriending participants have been supported in “fulfilling their potential” and discovering hidden talents. A huge amount of energy and time was put into the film project this year and the fantastic result "No Coins Just Change" is a testament to the team and the volunteer artists. It was so very sad to hear of the passing of Fran McHugh. I was a befriending volunteer to Fran for 4 years. During this time he had his ups and downs but successfully maintained his tenancy and rebuilt relationships with his family. That volunteer experience taught me just how isolated the participants can feel when they move on from a big service like Back Lane and what a huge difference a weekly visit makes in a person’s life. He will be hugely missed at the social events as he was such a great character.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Margo for her tireless commitment and enthusiasm to the programme and to the fantastic team of volunteer befrienders who are dedicated in meeting the men “where they are at” providing informal support and encouragement. I wish all in the Befriending team all the best for 2013 and continued success for many more years to come. Orla McAndrew Volunteer Coordinator

If you are interested in learning more about the Community Befriending Programme, the work of Depaul Ireland or would like more copies of this Annual Report, please contact: Depaul Ireland Services Department 18 Nicholas Street, Dublin 8. Dublin Office 00353 (0) 1 453 7111 / T 00353 (0) 1 453 7551 / F / E www. / W

Community Befriending Annual Report 2012  

Breaking the cycle of homelessness. The report of activities of the Community Befriending Programme based out of Back Lane.

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