Five Loaves throws open its doors
Wicklow Homeless Five Loaves in Bray and a Simon Community Shelter just off the main street in Bray, provided warmth and food around the clock during Storm Emma and Beast from the East.
Tom Gordon, centre manager at Five loaves, said that they extended their hours to the maximum that insurance would allow.
The day-centre remained open in the evening until it was time for the shelter to open. The shelter, which is part of the government's national cold weather initiative, customarily opens at 10 p.m. but changed this to 8 p.m. for the emergency situation.
The initiative is available on that site until the end of March.
'The lads got into a bit of a routine,' said Tom. He said that the atmosphere was great despite the harsh conditions and that the bond between staff, volunteers and service users has been strengthened.
Tom said that the centre received numerous calls offering help and supplies.
'The compassion and generosity of the people of Bray and Wicklow is just incredible,' he said. 'From the youngest in schools to the elderly coming in with a parcel.'
He said that Eugene Finnegan had arranged a bus service on one of the bad evenings to bring staff and volunteers home.
The service users stayed in the centre for most of the day, where it was warm and there was plenty to eat.
'They seemed to really appreciate having food all day, somewhere to stay that was warm, and a comfortable bed at night,' said Tom.
He said that the overnight facilities were very comfortable. Tom said that while the overnight shelter was virtually at capacity for the duration, thankfully nobody was turned away. Five Loaves were one of the agencies able to refer clients to that facility.
They received calls about the possibility that someone may have been sleeping rough on Bray Head, which they were unable to confirm, but believe a tent may have been left there.
Another person elsewhere in the northern part of the county did not wish to avail of accommodation.
The centre opened until Saturday afternoon, while it is usually a Monday to Friday service.
Tom paid tribute to the staff and volunteers who had given up their time and walked in from outlying parts of Bray to help people in genuine hardship.
'I am immensely proud of the people here, they were fantastic,' said Tom. He said that everyone was relieved that there were no injuries as a result of the snow and ice.
In general, Tom said, the numbers using the day service appear to be rising year on year.
'It is a concern,' said Tom, 'as is the idea that there may be people out there who have accommodation but are too proud to ask for help.'
He said, however, that it is very satisfactory to see so much good will. 'We couldn't have asked for more.'