A look at local heroes: Portlaoise Action Towards Homelessness
Portlaoise Action Towards Homelessness (P.A.T.H.) is a voluntary non-profit organisation that was set up over 3 years ago in response to the ever-increasing homeless crisis in our country. Our group has gone from strength to strength and it is all down to the fantastic support we receive from the people of Portlaoise and beyond.
We have expanded our current committee and would like to introduce you to everyone. All of us on the committee are long term volunteers. Billy Fitzpatrick has been with PATH since the beginning. Colm, Cathy and Irene joined the committee near the end of 2017. Catherine joined us earlier on this year followed by Eithne and Martin. Recently two more long term volunteers joined our committee, Mazz and Joe. Having a good strong committee is vital to the efficient running of PATH and we will endeavour to continue all the great work that has been done in the past. We would like at this point to express our thanks to all previous committee members and previous chairpersons. It is because of the dedication and commitment of all those who have been involved within the last 3 years that PATH is the success it is.
Every Saturday night we travel to Dublin to provide the people on the street with some small basic essentials. Food, drinks, toiletries, hats, scarves, gloves and sleeping bags. But just as essential is the human interaction we have with our homeless friends. A listening ear, a compassionate hand on an arm, a chat and a bit of good humoured banter all help to make the people we meet feel as if their life matters. Which of course it absolutely does. However, when you are on the streets surrounded by hundreds of people everyday and nobody speaks to you or acknowledges your existence or just looks at you with disdain in their eyes then you begin to feel like a nobody. We in PATH along with our amazing volunteers try for a little part of someone’s day to make them feel like a somebody. In addition to our Saturday night post on Facebook about our Dublin trip we hope to bring you some stories from the people you help to support on a regular basis. With their permission we will tell you a bit about their experiences and how your support through PATH has helped them.
PATH also try to help in the local community. We work well with many organisations involved in the welfare of vulnerable people in our society. We give talks to many schools, youth groups and businesses trying to explain to people young and old about our experiences of the homeless crisis. At Christmas we were lucky to have a surplus amount of stock and were able to distribute it to families and individuals in the parish who were very grateful for the extra supplies.
We have an open meeting every two months in Portlaoise Leisure Centre on the 1st Tuesday of the month at 8pm. At this meeting you will get to meet the committee, find out about the work we do and you can sign up as a volunteer if you would like to help. There will be many opportunities to help in the coming months outside of going on the Saturday night trip. So if you would like to help but feel you are not able to travel please come along and we can tell you what else you can do to support us. Our next meeting is on July 3rd. We would love to see as many people as possible at that meeting. We would like to invite back all our previous volunteers. Your experiences are invaluable to anyone who hasn’t travelled to Dublin yet but who would like to go in the future.
Our van can carry 7 people. We usually have 2 committee members plus a driver (of which we are very short of at the moment). Of the remaining 4 places, 2 are usually for long term volunteers and 2 places are for new volunteers. We also have to try to have a gender balance as much as is possible. Our mobile carts are heavy and need strong people to push and pull them around our weekly route which can cover anywhere between 8 – 12k. We have a new phone number 0877744013. We usually send out a text early in the week to see what volunteers are available. We would ask if you could reply promptly so we can put together our list. We also appreciate your patience as it is not always possible to accommodate everyone on weeks they might be available. Please get in touch with us if you have been waiting a long time and we will do our best to help.
Without your support PATH would not exist and we would like to THANK YOU all so so much. So many of you have given donations or your time or both to help our homeless friends. Every single one of your donations has gone directly to people in need. All of us in PATH appreciate each and every single one of you who have helped in any way. We would like to thank Browns Feed and the Parish Centre who take in your donations for us. A huge thanks to The Bay Tree in Portlaoise who each week provide us with treats for our homeless friends completely free of charge. The famous ‘Portlaoise Stew’ we bring up is a firm favourite with the people we meet and we would like to thank Traceys Bar and Restaurant and their staff who make the stews and sandwiches for us every week to bring up and distribute. O Sullivans Bar on Dublin’s Westmoreland street give us sandwiches (for free) during our Saturday night trip and The Rolling Donut have very kindly given us trays of donuts also for free to give to our homeless friends.
The service PATH provide is still sadly very much needed. Many other groups also work to help people affected by homelessness and we salute them. We wish all groups and everyone who is trying to help alleviate homelessness the greatest of success. We are not competing against each other. We are all trying to work towards the same goal which is to help ease the suffering of those who are affected by homelessness.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We are always in need of donations so please continue to help if you can. At this time we would be grateful for sleeping bags, crisps and chocolate. Even if it is just one bar of chocolate, 1 pack of crisps or 1 clean sleeping bag in good condition, it will be gratefully received by us in PATH and by our homeless friends. You can drop any items you would like to donate into the Parish Centre of Brownes Feed in the industrial estate.
To get in touch with us you can contact us on our new phone number 0877744043, via email on email@example.com or on our Facebook page.
Always try to be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.
Irene, Colm, Billy, Catherine, Cathy, Eithne, Martin, Mazz and Joe.