DRIFTING FROM sofa to sofa, relying on the kindness and patience of friends and relations, perhaps battling addiction and running out of options, a person can be just 24 hours away from having to sleep rough.
That's the harsh reality spelled out by John Devane and Annette Plunkett of Wicklow Homeless Five Loaves.
While Bray Partnership did a count last month of the number of people sleeping outside, the figures are yet to be released. ' It is not an accurate count,' said Annette, who explained that many people living on the streets do not wish their identity or location to be included in the study.
They recently provided a young man they encountered in Bray with extra sleeping bags, warm food and clothing as he faced a cold night out of doors. They would have loved to be able to provide him with accommodation this winter as the nights grow colder.
The WH Five Loaves day centre on Bray's Albert Walk offers hot meals, a place to seek shelter during the day, and a friendly face on a bad day.
This Christmas Day they will serve a dinner to a group of men and women who might otherwise have nothing at all to eat.
Clients of the service are either homeless or 'marginalised', in other words coping with poverty and disadvantage, or at risk of becoming homeless.
Service users can have a sleep, a change of clothes or a wash if they wish and can avail of classes, counselling and advice provided there.
Five Loaves also runs Ark Housing for men and a very successful charity shop at the recycling centre in Bray.
'Ark housing has worked very well against the odds,' said Annette, explaining that the six-bed facility is small and manageable and provides a comfortable home for six men who have seen much harder times.
However, their mission to help the homeless is vast and ongoing and they hope to eventually buy another property for those who find themselves sleeping on the streets for one reason or another.
Such specialised 24/7 care for the disenfranchised doesn't come cheap though, and also requires the cooperation of a community. The facility would be fully supervised and supported and include a team of highly trained staff.
Homelessness goes hand-in-hand with a range of problems, from substance abuse to mental illness, often exacerbated by the utter physical hardship of having nowhere to live.
While the current Ark Housing project is a 'dry house' and its inhabitants have been through the rehabilitation process, Annette and John explained that some homeless people with drug or alcohol dependency may never fully rehabilitate.
Should they therefore be deprived of a warm bed at night? ' We want to take them off the street, give them a roof over their heads and support them in whatever way we can,' said Annette.
John added that ' dignity' is a very important word at the centre of the issue. 'If you lose your dignity, you lose your self respect,' he said. 'A roof over your head is very important for stability and dignity.'
What inhibits the development of the work the organisation can do is quite simply resources and funding. The scale of accommodation they will be able to provide will depend on how much is in the pot to maintain the project at a sufficiently high level.
The local charity faces a constant struggle with money, balancing the cost of maintaining their current level of service with savings for the future; however, both John and Annette said that they are so grateful to all of their benefactors for their ongoing support.
' There is a huge amount of goodwill out there,' said Annette. 'Five Loaves would not survive without that generosity, whether it's money, food or clothing.'
Wicklow County Council provides the charity with the charity shop premises at the recycling centre, while the Holy Redeemer provides a hall for a weekly fundraising bingo night.
If you can help WH Five Loaves in any way or would like more information go to www.whfiveloaves.com or call (01) 2040960.