Women’s refuge nun calls for action on homelessness

The nun known as the Mother Theresa of Cork has called on the Government to do more to tackle homelessness — particularly at risk women and children.

Women’s refuge nun calls for action on homelessness

Sr Colette Hickey of the Good Shepherd Sisters, who founded Edel House as part of the Good Shepherd Services over 40 years ago to provide accommodation and support to homeless or vulnerable women and children, said much more housing is needed.

“People are more aware today of the issues than they were when we started working in this area,” said St Colette. “And they are providing more housing.

“But we need a lot more. Our night shelter is full every night and you can’t turn people away. And you can’t turn them out.”

Sr Colette, who will be 96 at the end of this month, was a pioneer in tackling homelessness in Cork in the 1960s, particularly among women .

In 1972, she established a night shelter refuge for women and their children too scared to stay at home.

However, she soon realised the night shelter was no’t enough and acquired a workman’s shelter on Adelaide St for a day centre, which went on to become Edel House. It now has nine family rooms and beds for another 24 women. It supported almost 350 women and their more than 100 children last year.

However, such is the demand, several women and children were turned away as no beds were available.

The length of stay of those who did get a bed has also increased because of a shortage of suitable available housing in the city.

Funding for an expansion of Edel House has been secured but the demand for accommodation still outstrips its number of beds.

Sr Colette recalled winning the first Cork Person of the Year title in 1993.

“It was wonderful and it was great to be recognised but I just kind of got on with it really,” she said. “But winning did help raise the profile of the work we were doing, and hopefully, this awards scheme will continue to raise the profile of all the good work that is going on around the city and county.”

The Good Shepherd Services also include an accommodation centre for out-of-home girls aged 15-18, an aftercare service that supports its clients’ transition to independent living, an accommodation complex, and a training centre for early school leavers.

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