by David Raleigh
Martin Power took shelter from Ophelia inside the welcoming warmth of McGarry House homeless hostel, in Limerick, where he was grateful for a bed, a warm meal, and a hot drink.
“Everyday is a storm when you're homeless. Your life is like a tornado,” the father of three said.
He praised the staff at the 40-bed bed temporary accommodation centre for men and women, run by Novas.
“It's a lifeline,” Martin, (41), explained.
Looking out at the stormy conditions he said: “You wouldn't put a dog out in that today.”
Up until recently, he said he was sleeping in a stable.
"My own health wasn't the best when I came here. You're sleeping like a feral cat basically…in the nearest bush.”
A self-confessed former heroin addict, who lived a chaotic lifestyle, having spent years in and out of jail, Martin said he is now “slowly but surely” moving towards a more stable life.
Residents and staff build up a strong bond, which Martin says helps residents who have fallen on hard times get their self-worth back, and a sense of belonging.
“Thank god for places like this. I'm here nearly three months, and it's the happiest I've been in years," he added.
The Moyross native offered further praise after staff gave him an early lift to the pharmacy where he receives his daily dose of methadone, as it was closing early due to the dangers posed by Ophelia.
“The people here have hearts of gold. You feel like you're included in something like you're part of something.”
Residents have their own key to their own room with an adjoining bathroom which also gives them a sense of place.
Martin said: “I know it might not sound like much, but I have a bed, and a shower, warm food. It's really appreciated."
He proudly shows me his bedroom and shows off his skills on an acoustic guitar given to him by staff.
"I'm self-taught", he says as he fingerpicks a soulful version of Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. "I'm known for having a laugh and a joke, but, to be honest with you, I suffer with bad depression from time to time. This guitar is my medication now…It helps me,” he added.
Sinead Carey, project manager, McGarry House, said they aim to help everyone that may be in need during the stormy weather: “Novas have a temporary emergency provision (TP centre) on Edward Street, run in conjunction with Limerick City Council. It's open for (24 hours) - normally it's open from 9am-9pm - but (we are) making sure that nobody can go out in the storm.”
“(Edward Street) can take up to 20 people in their facility, and once they fill up tonight, we can take people on camp beds here in McGarry House.”
“Once our camp beds are full, (Edward Street) will take more people in. Between our two services we are determined not to leave anybody out tonight in the storm.”
Una Burns, Novas Head of policy and Communications, urged people to contact the service’s freephone number if they know of anyone in need of emergency accommodation.
“We’ll make sure that we get (accommodation) access to them, and we'll invite them in and make sure that nobody has to be outside,” Ms Burns said.
“It's really important that nobody's life is at risk with this very bad wind,” she added.
The Novas 24-hour freephone helpline is 1800 60 60 60.