The Back Lane Shelter
The Back Lane shelter is a temporary shelter for the homeless run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the de Paul Trust. It is located on Back Lane (conveniently enough!), just off the Nicholas Street/Christchurch Place junction in Dublin’s south city centre.
The residents there generally stay on a 6-month basis, though some have been there for donkey’s years, and they range in age from the early 20s to the late 60s and 70s.
UCD SVP sends volunteer workers to the shelter on several days during the week to help out and get involved with activities such as bingo, table quizzes, pool competitions and cards nights (poker, etc.), plus the occasional music night.
Each activity is on a separate day during the week, and they usually kick off around 6:30pm. Although the volunteers go to facilitate the running of these activities, their role first and foremost is to spend time with the residents, talk with them, get to know them and generally have a laugh with them; and maybe attend the odd mass in the chapel every now and then! Although most of the activities will take about an hour, most nights the volunteers will stay on and play some pool with a few of the lads or even just stay and have a chat. Each year, we are advised by those in charge of the hostel not to ask the men about their experiences before they came to the hostel but that there is no problem if the men raise the issue themselves, which many of them often do as they get to know the volunteers better.
Besides the normal activities we also run a Christmas party in the shelter with each of the residents getting presents – usually something like some gloves and a scarf – which they need but cannot usually afford. Ultimately it is the residents who decide, within reason, what activities we do. There has recently been a request for a singsong maybe once every month or six weeks which we hope to start in September.
The society here at UCD is looking to expand its involvement with the shelter and its residents, and we have a lot of plans for the future, for example, to set up an art class, to increase awareness of voting rights, and to meet residents after they have moved on. To do this we’ll be relying on our dedicated team of volunteers who are always ready and willing to get their hands dirty and get involved.