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Snippet Contents:

This morning I read an article in The Irish Times by the director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive on volunteers. I was very disappointed with the language used in it. Basically, it states that it is not helpful for volunteers to be giving out food and clothes to the homeless. I do not believe such comments are helpful to volunteers who give up their time in the evening, after their own day's work, and leave their families to give out food and clothes. The article made me think of all the volunteers who, over the years, came into the hospitals in which I worked. They got to know the long-term homeless, who were mainly men, and paid attention to the type of clothes they liked to wear and the football teams they supported, etc. One man who I still visit insisted he only liked to wear a certain brand. Volunteers, when going through buckets of clothes, took the time to ensure that those men had something they liked wearing and not just anything out of a bag. They paid attention to their personalities and who they are. Such gestures might not break the long-term cycle of homelessness but I do not think that is what volunteer groups are trying to do. They are trying to show a level of human empathy and compassion to people who are on the streets and in long-term homelessness.
Years ago, in the lead-up to Christmas, I remember collecting black bags full of presents for people in two hostels where I worked. I remember two women skiving loads of them down the side of a sofa. I asked them about three bottles of perfume that were in a packet but they did not want them. They said that they could not afford presents for their loved ones and that they had been used to the cold and living in those standards but that the stockings, gloves, scarves, perfumes and gift sets that they were receiving served them psychologically because they were able to give them to their loved ones at Christmas to show them that they were thinking of them.
Volunteers are hugely important. It may be that they are never in a position to break the cycle of homelessness, but that is up to us, as legislators, Dublin City Council and various other organisations. To dismiss the work of volunteers is unacceptable. Instead we should be thanking them.