Cobh Hostel for ex-Defence Forces personnel who served their country

If people who have served their country in the Defence Forces fall on hard times, there are places for them to seek help, explains Adrienne Acton / Echo Live

Brú na Farraige, a hostel for homeless veterans, sits along Cobh’s Harbour Row.

It is the fourth house to be established to offer those who have served in the Defence Forces a place to call home and to avail of supports.

The one in Dublin can house over 30 people, while those in Letterkenny, Athlone and Cobh can house five each. Plans for a fifth house in St Lukes in Cork City should start soon, with a capacity to accommodate six individuals.

Approval for the Cobh hostel was given in 2020, by the board of directors of ONE (Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel). The building was previously the social welfare office and so, with the aid of the Office of Public Works, a lease was obtained.

Funding was obtained through Cork City and County Councils, the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces Benevolent Fund, The Leopardstown Park Trust, ESB, and the International Police Association Cycling Club.

The house was opened in October 2021 and consists of two sections. The accommodations are at one side, with the five en suite bedrooms, a kitchen, and a laundry room, while the other side houses the Veteran Support Centre, with counselling room, a communal sitting room, bathrooms, and a kitchen where the chef, ex naval cook Eddie, provides three meals per day for the residents.

They also organise remembrance services and ceremonial funerals for Defence Force members, along with working for charities locally.

The veterans support officer holds a weekly clinic where she is available for anyone that needs a chat.

This project began when members of the defence forces were finding their colleagues homeless and destitute on the streets of Dublin. They decided something needed to be done, so the first Brú na bhFiann (Home of the Brave) was established.

Cobh house manager John Lawlor, himself a veteran and a qualified psychotherapist, says they get regular enquiries from those looking for accommodation, but with the housing crisis, they are unable to offer a room.

Veterans are not immune to the housing situation, he says. Finding places for single men is difficult, and so, while the residents that are there are unable to move on, they can’t take any newcomers.

There a many reasons a member of the defence forces could find themself homeless. As well as housing issues, the trauma of tours can take a toll on their mental health. Others find it difficult reintegrating into civilian life.

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