Eileen Fitzgerald, aged 78, better known as Sr Consilio, founded Cuan Mhuire, a charitable drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation organisation, in Ireland 50 years ago.
The Sister of Mercy is now on a mission to provide a place where homeless people with drug habits can be enticed to stay and deal with their problems.
“I came into Gardiner Street on Saturday evening and I met three people just right beside our house, shooting up heroin in desperation,” she said.
She stopped to talk to the group and asked them to pray that she would be able to get a place for them.
Sr Consilio said there was no place for homeless people like the ones she met. They needed somewhere where they could be “enticed” to stay and deal with their drug problem.
“There is a lot more to homelessness. If it was only about getting beds, it would be easy enough to settle it,” she said. “I would love to get help to put a place together for the people on the streets who are suffering from addiction,” she said on RTÉ radio yesterday.
Sr Consilio said she had already found somewhere suitable, but needed someone to help her set it up.
“The hardest thing for me going to bed in our house in Gardiner St was knowing there were people lying on the ground outside.”
They needed a place where they could stop taking street drugs and reduce their methadone treatment gradually before being brought to rural-based rehabiliation centres to complete the recovery process, she said.
Sr Consilio said those wanting to work with homeless people would have to love them unconditionally and let them see what beautiful people they really were.
Cuan Mhuire provides a residential programme and a range of other support services for individuals and families impacted by additions and their consequences, including homelessness.
Sr Consilio said it was down to “Our Lady” that Cuan Mhuire has been so successful in finding the goodness in what she described as “wounded people”.
“It is not that I have a greater liking for people who have a problem with drink. I just love people,”she said.
People started coming to the dairy she converted in Athy, Co Kildare because, other than the psychiatric hospital, there was nowhere for them to go if they did not have a lot of money.
She found people helped each other deal with addiction. There were three pubs nearby and each person had to support the other when tempted to visit them.
“They found they could reach out to each other and the love generated among them was the healing power,” said Sr Consilio.