Lending More Than a Hand to Dublin’s Homeless

Our mission is to create exits for the homeless, not a revolving door. We want to open our own safe hostel for women that will be run to benefit the people staying there, to empower them to become productive members of society before they move out.


Rather than doing the usual corporate function to mark International Women’s Day 2024 we felt it was a great opportunity to shine a light on the incredible work organisations such as A Lending Hand are doing day in day out to help vulnerable women in our community. Some of the Lincoln team walked the streets with the A Lending Hand team on Wednesday evening to learn more about the work they do and we spoke with founder Keira Gill afterwards:

What inspired you to set up A Lending Hand?

I tried to buy a house for myself in 2013, I would have been a very materialistic person, I believed things made you happy so I believed if I was able to buy my own house that would give me happiness. However the bank only offered me a €90k mortgage, after I had saved as a single woman, which sent me into the depths of depression because I thought I had done it all right and still didn’t get enough to buy a house. My family would never pass a homeless person and one day I made a flask of stew just went in and joined the soup run and realised the need that was there for it. The guy running it at the time stopped doing it and so it landed in my lap and I just ran with it. It was seeing the need, we’ll always tell you that we get a lot more out of it than we give. I realised it was what I wanted to do from then on so I went back to college to study Social Care and then Trinity College to do Sociology and Social Policy and have never looked back.

Tell me a little bit about A Lending Hand, what are the services you offer?

We primarily try to help homeless people, to keep them alive. We hand out sleeping bags, tents, warm clothes and hot food at night. We have an account with Dan O’Brien’s Butchers in the Northside Shopping Centre so we get meat from there and we share the cooking so we always have hot food to give to the homeless at night. Then when they get houses we would go in and try to turn their house into a home. So we would bring pictures and get their food for them so they would have money for their other bills. During Covid we saw a massive spike in domestic violence so I would bring girls into the Court House for Protection Orders. We would also support a lot of elderly people in our community who are on the bread line. Basically anyone who is homeless, has been homeless or is transitioning into being homed and anyone in the Coolock area who is on the poverty line, we would help. Like before Christmas there was a lady who had a back injury who has an autistic child and the house had got in on top of her so we went in and decluttered her home, got painters in and the little one wants to be a girl so we did up her room in pink for her. So it’s a variety of things.

Are there safe hostels for women who are homeless in Dublin?

No absolutely not. Their clothes are robbed, there’s extortion, bullying, intimidation, drug pushing and human trafficking happening in Dublin. Also imagine trying to share with 6 other grown women each who would have their own complexities. I feel like women are more vulnerable. If you’re a woman and you’ve fallen into addiction, you’ve fallen out with your family and some creep comes along and gets you involved in human trafficking, selling your body, they’re up to all of that and there’s no one to keep them safe. The hostels give them a room but it stops there. Women are being preyed upon. I’ve seen tourists come in and take women down laneways. It’s quite scary to watch. Also most of the hostels are run by men, even a couple by an exGarda, for me that’s mental because we have women out there who have been involved in crime and for them to go into a hostel and be judged by someone who can access their records is crazy. They don’t get support, they get a room, they get a bed and that’s it.

Have you noticed a big spike in women on the streets?

We would have dealt with 70 people when we started in 2013, 90% of whom were men, now it’s becoming more and more common because the environments they’re being put into are unsafe. 80% of hostels don’t have Key Workers which means 80% of homeless people don’t get their needs met. Without a Key Worker a homeless person hasn’t a chance to get off the streets as they are supposed to help them with their paperwork, training, employment etc.. The system is so under-staffed and the staff that are there are so underpaid that people don’t have it in them. It’s exhaustion I’d say. Even when an addict decides to get clean they’ve to wait 30 days before they’re admitted to a treatment centre. I’ve watched people do this. They’ve to get themselves clean for 30 days for with no support. I feel like there’s a lot of box ticking going on. Take a woman who’s been on the list for 15 years, it doesn’t matter to the system that’s she’s had an addiction, that she’s vulnerable. They would put her into flats that are in the middle of town that have crack dens around her and it’s inevitable what’s going to happen next. I can see it happen before it even happens. It’ll be turned into a crack den and taken over within 6 months and they’re back out on the street but they’re off the list then and back on the bottom of the list. She’s then asked why are you not fixed? Why are you back out? The answer is you gave her 4 walls and the walls closed in on her.

Do you think more could have been done to help Ann Delaney who sadly passed away on our streets last month? 

Yes absolutely. Ann got a house but she couldn’t cope so they sent her on her way, never integrated her, never supported her. You can’t give someone 4 walls when their social life was the street. They almost need babysitters because they’ve forgetten how to live, they don’t have the social skills. They’re used to living day to day, they don’t think about tomorrow so they need help with this. We even have to show people how to pay their rent in many cases. If you’re going to give her a home then she needs someone to mind her in that home and then she needs someone to mind her mind in that home. Ann’s family were amazing and tried really hard to help her but the mental health services just weren’t there to help her.

Can you tell me a little about the team who volunteer for A Lending Hand?

Some of our volunteers have battled through addiction and we’ve helped them get off the streets but with the housing crisis are currently living in hostels. These volunteers blow my mind. To see them running things like the Tuesday night Karaoke in the Lighthouse is incredible. To actually see them giving and coming back. For other homeless people it’s so inspiring to see them, they often ask “You mean if I get clean I can help too?” It definitely gives them a sense of purpose. I’m a bit odd when I’m taking on volunteers, through the years some haven’t come with a pure heart, they’ve come for their egos, you know I’d hear them talking down to homeless people, feeling like “I’m here to help you” so that’s not what we do. Their intentions have to be pure. So the team we have now are amazing.

What sets you sets A Lending Hand apart from the other organisations out there helping the homeless?

We’ve always come at it from a humanity aspect. My thing is and always has been, treat everyone the same. Our intention is to put them first. We try not to be sterile, we try to be relatable. We would often have a queue of people looking to just to have a chat with us and have a hug. Time is really what people look for and so we always try to give homeless people our time. We could be standing there at 1 in the morning still talking to them, it’s just so important to give time and listen to them. Some of the organisations that are out there have been around so long they’ve become sterile which takes away from the humanity aspect. So our thing is, it’s all about them. I feel homelessness has become such a big business that homeless people are a commodity now but we need to know where the money is going as it’s definitely not getting to those who need it most.

What is the ultimate goal of A Lending Hand?

To create exits for the homeless. I don’t want a revolving door like the system is now. We are waiting for our charity status and if we get it, we’ll open our own safe hostel for women, it won’t be run like a cattle market, it’ll be run to benefit the people staying there, to empower them to become productive members of society before they move out. I want to have a kitchen to teach them how to cook. We’ll also run a system that, for want of a better word, adopts a homeless person, to help them fill out paperwork, help them get into college, train them for work such as baristas, bar staff, hairdressers etc.. We’ll approach businesses, tell them we have a recovering addict who is homeless but trained in what they need. A Lending Hand will pay them for the first 3 months of their employment so there’s no financial risk to take them on but after that the company would be asked to give them a contract. We’ll get them out of homelessness, into employment, into a home while still supporting them and no matter how many years go by, we’ll still support them. We’ll literally be their ma!

If we were to ask for support from the public, how can people help you?

The support coming up to Christmas was phenomenal, the best support we’ve ever had to be honest but now we’re running out. We don’t deal with cash so we ask people to buy us the goods such as sleeping bags, tents, warm clothes, chocolate, crisps, hats, gloves, socks, underwear. We can accept vouchers too such as supermarket vouchers. We ask people to deliver them to our butchers, Dan O’Brien Butchers in the Northside Shopping Centre, Coolock, Dublin 17.

If you would like to contact Keira directly you can phone her on 085 788 5034, email her on keira.gill@gmail.com or contact her via the A Lending Hand Facebook page here.

Gail Finegan avatar