Friday, 17th August 2018
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High Hopes Choir

Jennie Greene / Conor Noonan / Dara Taylor

The High Hopes Choir is Irelands first ever choir to be made up of people who are directly affected by homelessness and the organisations who work with them. Founded by David Brophy, the choir aims to help change the public perception of what it means to be homeless in Ireland today and to raise funds to help the services and facilities that support these people such as Tintean Housing and McGuire House.

We interviewed Teresa Meaney, Project Manager for Tintean Housing association and asked her does she think there is both a realistic and feasible long term solution to this growing problem. Her response was this, "I believe the government need to look long term rather than short term. They need to look at the reasons why people become homeless and put the money and work in earlier rather than just reacting to the symptoms.” It's a very valid point Teresa makes as I'm sure plenty of people would agree it's better to act sooner rather than later. Homelessness is at its worst with one young man from hostel blaming the recession saying "the money just isn't there”. Anyone can become homeless for many different reasons and the stereotype doesn't always fit. It's a shame that people haven't opened their eyes to this problem before now and maybe it wouldn't be as big a problem as it is if people had acted sooner.

As we made our rounds around the hostel speaking to different residents and members of High Hopes Choir they all said it's a very positive initiative that has come in to their lives recently as it gives them something to look forward to. It has helped many of them to gain confidence and trust within themselves. William Flynn who is originally from Ballybeg in Waterford City has been homeless for over 20 years now. William told me how he became institutionalised at a very young age and how he slept rough on the streets of London. William returned to Ireland in 2011 when his mother passed away, he then spent a further two years being homeless in Dublin before he came to the hostel two months ago. Talking about the choir William says "it has brought me out of my shell, I would have being very antisocial… it has helped me make new friends.” It's always hard for someone to be homeless but at this time of the year things can get exceptionally tough but coming together as High Hopes Choir seems to have lifted everyone's spirits and brought some joy into their lives. All the members see a future for the choir and say "it's up to us to keep it going.”

We were also speaking to John Flynn, aka Mousey, an enthusiastic and lovely character. Mousey has been a resident of the McGuire men's hostel for the past 7 months, and an active member of the High Hopes Choir. When he get residency at the hostel he also joined the choir, and he's been loving it ever since. The choir benefits so many people around the country and county. Not just for raising awareness but also because, as Mousey said; it gives them something to do in the day, a reason to get up in morning. When we arrived in the Hostel we were lucky enough, and honored to be able to hear the choir practice singing and playing their instruments; guitar and accordion. They were singing Christmas songs such as silent night, a favourite song of Mousey. The singing is wonderful and the emotion of togetherness was running high, it was a very joyful scene with smiles all around.

One lovely resident introduced us to a staff member who has been working in the hostel for the past seven years. We found out a lot about the benefits of having the hostel in our town. One staff member spoke to us about how she became involved with working with the homeless while on student placement with an Outreach Program and decided to continue her career in that area. She spoke to us about how rewarding working in the hostel is; as one small gesture can make a huge difference to someone's life.

Then speaking about the High Hopes Choir, the staff member spoke only words of enthusiasm and praise for the resident's dedication to the choir. Both the men and the woman's hostels are much busier now than they have ever been, often with not enough beds to offer to those who look for them. The men's hostel said they previously had bed space for 26-27 while having a max number of residents of 21, whereas now they're always at a maximum of 35. Although the staff member agreed that more available houses would help the homeless problem; the main issue that needs to be addressed is why these people are homeless. The men's hostel is open to any male over the age of eighteen and denied entry only happens on rare occasions with proper reason from the hostel as well as a lengthy process. You can contact the men's hostel on 051 872708. Tintean housing association is also available to any female over the age of eighteen and has to be referred by a referral agency, such as the social work department or any other homeless services. Tintean can be contacted on 051844076.

The members of the choir have very high aspirations and are very committed to it for their own personal cause and for the cause of others. They have released a cd that was recorded in an RTE studio and is now available on iTunes and on sale from the Men's Hostel. They recently performed for The Candlelit Christmas Concert in Aid of Focus Ireland in the Christ Church Cathedral and are in talks about further gig possibilities.

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