By Joanne Nolan

Sheroes in the Shadows

I was looking at what was happening in my community. Who was doing what and where? I became struck by the many women just doing. Not blowing their own trumpet, just quietly doing.

I knew of women who were now making masks and handing them out. I knew many nurses who had returned to the front line, home schooled and managed to mind their elderly parents and neighbours who were cocooning. I knew of women who had volunteered to deliver PPE to local nursing homes. Foster carers going above and beyond. Women working with the homeless, which led to my idea to highlight these women and what they are doing.

This is “Sheros In the Shadows”.

Bernadette Fagan is a Homeless Outreach worker, she does this in the capacity of a volunteer. Bernadette is an accidental Shero. She always helped with the Annual Christmas shoe boxes appeal for the homeless. The organiser urged Bernadette to give volunteering at the soup run a go. Bernadette relented to satisfy her friend.

She thought 1000 percent that this was a one off. On a freezing cold November evening five years ago, Bernadette volunteered at her first soup run. On that night she met Ger. Ger had such a happy disposition and wicked sense of humour despite her circumstances, it caught Bernadette completely off guard.

Her mind was blown that first evening, she was shocked and humbled by those she met, especially Ger. As she arrived eagerly the following Tuesday, she noticed a small group huddled together around a framed picture with tea lights as a memorial to Ger. Bernadette was forever changed in that moment.

She now runs Lucan Homeless Donations and does outreach in Dublin’s city center, offering food, dry clothes, goodies, even McDonald vouchers when available, but from my observations, more importantly, she sits with them and listens, she sees them with no judgement.

I accompanied Bernadette one Sunday afternoon as she assisted a homeless outreach van that comes up from Portlaoise once a month. One of the people I met was Ella Rose, she is eight years old. Ella is third generation homeless, she was there that day with her grandad Michael to get some ‘bits’.

Ella lives in Tallaght Cross Hotel with her mam, her mam’s partner and her siblings aged 11, four and four months. Ella tells me that there is no outside space, but that there is an indoor play area that is open until 6pm. This was closed during the Covid restrictions. Michael, her grandad, tells me that they had to flee their home in Clondalkin due to antisocial behaviour. They are just “waiting”, wise Ella says. Waiting for a permanent place to call home.

I came across Vin a gentle-man from the UK. Grief brought him to his knees, he says. He plays a mean tune with his tin whistle. I stood listening to him play whilst the world whizzed by. We spoke for a long time. Vin is a very clever, articulate, kind and caring man trying to put the pieces of his life back together.