A HOMELESS man has revealed how a recently opened soup kitchen helped turn his life around.
JP Costello (40), from Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, was able to get back on his feet with the help of Twist soup kitchen in Galway, which helped him find an apartment and gave him work.
The builder had been homeless for a month when the soup kitchen came to his aid. He is now living in his own apartment in Roscommon town and works on a voluntary basis for the charity.
He is eagerly seeking paid employment and believes his new-found confidence will help him get work in the new year.
"I'm a person who has worked all my life and I'm not afraid of work. With the apartment I can stay clean and well shaven and people don't think you're a tramp. That's a big bonus if you want to get back to work," he said.
JP spent his life working on the family farm and in the building trade. He moved to Dublin in the early 1990s to continue work in the building trade. In 2003, he moved to England and while things went well at first, JP found himself without work or shelter in 2010 as the recession took hold. He returned to Ireland last February.
"I was working pretty much constantly up until the last three years. They were very difficult; I found myself homeless and sleeping rough while I was waiting for emergency shelters.
"Not knowing where to go every night, to have a place to put your head down. Are you going to be safe, are you going to be warm – that was the biggest problem," he said.
When he returned to Ireland, he struggled to get assistance.
"There was a lot of red tape because I was away so long. I found it hard to get help. I decided to come to Galway because I thought I'd be able to get work. But after a few nights in the hostel the money ran out," he said.
It was then that JP heard about the kitchen, but he admits he was "sceptical at first".
"But when I came down the people couldn't be nicer. They fed me and put me up in a hostel for more than a week. I used to get up in the morning more positive after having a good night's sleep," he said.
After working with the charity for over a month, they helped arrange for him to move to his own apartment.
"After staying in hostels for so long where you just can't get any sleep, people come in with drink in them and are roaring and shouting, but the streets are worse, it's just a nightmare," he said.
Twist opened its third soup kitchen in Roscommon earlier this month where it is already serving up to 50 free meals a day. The charity now serves an average of 80 people a day at its Galway premises and 60 at its Athlone outlet.
For more information on Twist and how to help go to www.twistsoupkitchen.com or call Oliver Williams on 087-7773845.