An outreach programme, which helps children in homelessness in Cork city, has seen referrals to social work drop dramatically among the children they help.
The Springboard programme, which has projects set up in Knocknaheeny, Fairhill and Cushing Road, were faced with whole families becoming homeless around three years ago. Ger Phillips, project leader with Springboard family support centre, told The Echo that they wanted to help in some way. “We couldn’t get houses for people. We tried. But we thought we had to do something for the kids,” he says.
They have set up a project, in conjunction with Edel House which provides homeless accommodation for homeless women and children.
“Every Tuesday night we have a youth club for homeless children. That’s happening now for the last three years. We collect the kids from Edel house or B&B accommodation around the city.
“It’s child-centered, it’s consistent, it happens every Tuesday night and they love it. Even children who have got homes come back to it, they love it,” Ger says.
The programme has seen a drastic improvement in the childrens’ behaviour. “What we found in Edel House was because the children were cooped up in there, the behavioural difficulties were happening, but it was much easier to manage the children because they knew the youth club was coming up.
“We found referrals to social work went down from about 44 one year to about four or even less. That trend has continued. Even children who are on CAMHS lists.”
The programme, which aims to give children in homelessness a positive memory for when they grow up, is run in conjunction with the Good Shepard services, along with ETB and City Council support.
As project leader with Springboard family support centre, Ger works alongside project worker Marge Case, who is based in Cushing Road.
Karen Cronin is a resident on Cushing Road, and she’s seen the programme flourish since the start: “It’s brilliant. They’re absolutely fantastic here in the neighbourhood for the community. It gets people together for a lot of things.
“During the summer we have our annual barbecue which Springboard help us out with. They let us use their facilities and help fund it. There’s a street festival - it was in Tannery Gardens this year, it was in Cushing road last year.
“From a personal point of view, if I have any problems or if I just need someone to talk to there’s always someone here.”
The facility caters for people of all ages in the community. Springboard help people with going to meetings, applying for certain payments, as well as making representations to the city council on environmental issues, or if footpaths need to be fixed.
“For us it’s been invaluable to have Karen here and other local residents to guide us,” Ger says. “It has to come from the people themselves. It’s just what the needs are in the community, but also being available.”
A clean-up of the area happens every six to eight weeks.
“The City Council are well on board with that. They give us the gloves, the pickers and bags, and they come and take the rubbish when we have it all picked up,” Karen says.
“It’s very good for the community to keep the area clean, that you have pride in where you live.”
The workers in the Springboard Programme know that they won’t be able to help everyone the way they want to, but they will continue to try.
“We have a policy of never giving up on people,” Ger says. “One fella in particular that I worked with over the years has ended up in prison, but we’d still not give up on the person. He phoned up and asked how the house was going. Creating a good memory is very important. He came out of prison one year and I met him in town and he threw his arms around me and gave me a big hug.”
“You never give up on people. People always have the potential to change. We’ve seen remarkable stories here over the years of people you’d think were very down and under different circumstances they thrive.”