Conor Roe, Advice and Information, Coffee Shop
Q. What year did you join Focus Ireland & what service/department?
A. I joined Focus Ireland in September 2012 as part of the CSV (graduate) programme. I had just finished my Social Science degree in UCD and was looking to gain experience and on the job training, which the CSV programme offered.
I’m so thankful that I was selected and I have not looked back from there. I worked as part of the National Family Case Management Team, which was a new team at the time, as the occurrences of family homelessness were just beginning to rise. This team provided holistic support to families who were residing in homeless accommodation, with the end goal of finding them sustainable accommodation.
Q. What does your job normally entail?
A. I am currently the Project Leader of the Coffee Shop service. The Coffee Shop is an open-access food and Advice & Information service helping those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This is an extremely busy service with a diverse range of people who need support. Usually, we have a bustling coffee shop with 25 customers in at any one time, where they can engage with staff. My job is to ensure that everything has been put in place so that these customers can get a hot nutritious meal as well as formal and informal advice and information.
Q. How has your job changed during the public health crisis?
A. We have had to adapt our service to accommodate important social distancing guidelines. Initially, we reduced the capacity of our service to just six persons. The Advice & Information team began to work remotely. Then we made the decision to only operate a take-away food service, incorporating social distancing outside of the service. Even with the change in our service, the amount of dinners we produce each day has increased significantly.
Q. What do you find is the most difficult thing to adapt to during this time?
A. Due to our service moving from a busy sit down Coffee Shop to a take-away service, we have had to change how we engage with our customers. This has been hard on both myself and the team, as we have had to alter how we build supportive professional relationships with our customers. It has really shone a light on the importance of social contact and its relationship to mental health and the crucial role the Coffee Shop plays in providing this type of support.
Q. What’s your favourite Focus Ireland memory or experience?
A. I have so many happy memories from my time in Focus Ireland. I have met some fantastic people and cultivated some truly great friendships. My favourite memory has to be when we arranged for Santa to pay a visit to the Coffee Shop. The spirits of the whole building were lifted, mainly because the staff were more excited than the children.
Q. If you had to give your 18-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
A. I’m going to borrow a quote which I read in Irish Boxer Andy Lee’s book that really resonated with me; “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously. Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.”