Start with the human being first, not the homeless

Start with the human being first, not the homeless Sr. Susan receiving an award from Depaul's Volunteer Department. Pictured with Dermot Murphy, Senior Services Manager with Depaul, and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring
Homelessness Supplement 2019


Kerry Anthony
(CEO Depaul Ireland)


Sr Susan is a Chaplain and has volunteered with Depaul for almost two years. As part of her role she provides spiritual and pastoral support for Service Users and staff through difficult times.

“I would always say, look at the person first. This is a human being like you or me, we have blood in our veins, we get up every morning hoping for the best for our day. We never know what circumstances could interfere or change in our lives that we too could end up homeless. That could be us, you know, and how would we like to be treated?”

On a weekly basis, Sr Susan visits a number of Depaul’s services, listening to and providing comfort for those who have found themselves in really difficult circumstances: “I link in with people in the 24-hour, the One Night Only services and people who are coming in to homelessness for the first time. Just being able to sit with them and let them cry if needed and to just listen to their story, their fears and to try and give them a little bit of reassurance and support and practically to tell them what staff they need to link in with in the morning before they leave.”

She goes on to explain how from time to time she offers pastoral accompaniment to various places and does hospital visits and how important that can be to someone who is homeless and may have a lack of family support: “I remember one time visiting a service user in hospital and the person saying to me ‘I love when you come in because you make me feel normal in the ward’. You have to understand that that visit may be the only visit the person receives.”

On the topic of Chaplaincy and what it means, Sr Susan is not so much worried about if people understand what it means, but more the role a Chaplain can play within these vital homeless services. “It’s not so important about what a Chaplain does but it’s the presence of a Chaplain that matters and having the time, especially when staff are very busy, to sit down with Service Users and that you’re there as a person who can maybe help them tap in to the resource of hope or resilience that is in that person. If it from a source of faith or a belief in God well and good but if not that is okay because you’re trying to hold them and keep them until they can get their feet back underneath them to move on from homelessness,” she said.

When it comes to misconceptions of homeless people, Sr Susan encourages everybody to look at people in a compassionate light and most importantly be kind: “Even if you pass somebody that is begging on the street, that is a human being that for some reason has to beg. Even if you don’t give them anything, just say hello. Just acknowledge that they exist. Remember, it is a human being with blood in their veins like you and me, and begin there.”

Depaul is a homeless charity which was set up in 2002. They provide a range of outreach and accommodation services across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and last year helped almost 4,000 men, women and children. To find out more or to make a donation visit