COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT worker Denis Shannon has spoken to the Carlow People about his time spent working with families from two Respond! estates in Bagenalstown.
Respond!, which was set up in the 1980s to deal with a need for housing for young families and older people, has a number of estates throughout the county.
Denis works with families from the two Bagenalstown estates, Chestnut Court which is 14 years old and is made up of 28 family homes and apartments and the newer estate, Gleann na Bearu, which is an integrated estate with the local authority and social and affordable housing schemes.
'Respond! is now 30 years old and it is not just about providing housing for people but developing a community,' said Denis.
' That's where I come in. I used to work solely as a community development worker but now these days my job entails some estate management also.'
As part of his day to day work he visits the estates and calls each week door to door to chat with the families.
'I touch base with the people to see if they have any issues,' he said. 'Sometimes it is just about talking to people and getting to know them. I'm the first point of contact on the estate and people would report different things to me like maintenance issues which I pass on to the office.'
Denis says that the majority of people in Respond! housing are lone parents. Although he believes 'everyone these days is feeling the pinch' he tries to put people who are struggling in contact with the different local agencies that can help.
'People are private as well, there are boundaries and you can't pry too much because I am also representing their landlord agency so we have to develop a professional relationship.
' We try to do our best to deliver and treat people with respect. Hopefully then that is returned.'
Denis also deals with complaints about nuisance or anti social behavior.
'If it escalates in to something more serious it is passed on, we have a dedicated anti social manager. My biggest aim is to work with people and make life in their estate as good as possible,' he added.
In each estate there is a community building also. In Glenn na Bearu this building is now used by Bagenalstown Youth Project and Carlow Regional Youth Service.
' The profile in Gleann na Bearu is mainly young families, children and teenagers so it is great to see organisations like this based there. It is a positive development for us. Some young people in the estate are starting to access the drop in centre and the different programmes on offer, we are delighted to see this.'