HOPE Hostel

hope harcourt st

April 2016:  HOPE, an organization for homeless and unattached young people, was founded in 1975 by a group of students who were taken aback by the numbers of young people they encountered begging and sleeping rough on Dublin’s city centre streets. In 1977 they set up a shelter facility in a south central city location on Harcourt street (Photo), catering for young people, predominantly males. 

 The facility operated a short-term stay policy with the expectation that the young people would re-connect with their families of origin although many of the young people involved were long since separated from their families and found their way to HOPE either as a result of leaving state care - usually in residential institutions operated by religious orders - at the age of 16, the legal leaving-care age at the time, or as a result of a breakdown in home care arrangements as they became teens.

  During the early 1980s HOPE moved to an alternative hostel facility in Nelson street on the north side of the city centre and set out to provide a service that was both short-term and primarily care-oriented. In this regard, the hostel developed a case management system of care to assist the young people to negotiate new long-term care arrangements; it developed connections with educational and training programmes and with statutory social work services, and alternative long-term residential centres, and in addition the child welfare organization, Barnardos, assigned a separate social worker to HOPE,                                                                                                                                        thereby ensuring each person coming into the hostel would have an assigned social worker. In general, the hostel provided a service to over 100 individual young people each year, some of whom returned back to the service, and over the ten year period of its existence it worked with over 500 separate  persons.

  Essentially HOPE through its service provision and its research and policy contributions set out to re-frame youth homelessness as primarily a child care issue. However, this re-framing, especially from a funding perspective, was resisted by state authorities. The responsible health authority (the Eastern Health Board) funded the service to provide overnight, shelter facilities only, with HOPE relying on voluntary fund-raising to make up the deficit. The strategy was unsustainable and by the mid 1980s the organization incurred serious debts and was virtually insolvent.

 By 1986 HOPE's executive committee decided that as the service was no longer sustainable, it had to close and the organization wound up. In the negotiations around its closure the organisation refused a request by the health authorities to operate the programme on a scaled-down, shelter-only basis, and emphasised that to operate such a service would be counter-productive and place young people at even greater risk.

  Following HOPE’s closure, some staff members, management, and others involved in referring into and supporting the service, developed a campaign group to ensure that a replacement service with a professional, child-welfare focus, would be set up.  Following a period of campaigning activities, a decision on a replacement service was eventually made during the period leading up to Christmas 1986, and a budget way in excess to that sought by HOPE was agreed between the health authorities and, unsurprisingly, a Catholic Church-based social service provider; this proposal was favoured to an alternative proposal that was submitted by Barnardos.            

Photo: Members of Hope Staff 1986

 hope staff at 2 nelson st

   HOPE’s success, in addition to providing a badly-needed service, was in advocating that youth homelessness needed to be perceived primarily as a child welfare issue, and in due course other policy developments followed, whereby the leaving care age was increased by legislation to 18 and “youth homelessness” became a separate category for child welfare service provision. However, the price for the success of its advocacy was its own demise and the loss of a non-denominational organization with a commitment to child and youth welfare, at a time when service provision in this field continued to be dominated, to their detriment, by providers who were tied to religious orders.

See RTE archive news on closure of HOPE

Gentl© Barry Cullen 2018