IT was a case of home sweet home in Ennis this week as a new social housing development for six people with intellectual disability, undertaken by Banner Housing Association, was officially launched by Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan.
One of the apartment’s tenants, Martina Ryan, told how moving into this new accommodation has changed her life for the better.
Both Martina and her friend, Martina O’Halloran, share one of the development’s three apartments on the Gort Road.
“I couldn’t be happier. I have become more independent, learning new skills such as cooking and doing household chores. At times, it can be difficult but I enjoy my space and independence. I’m very happy the way my life is changing and improving. I love choosing everything in my new home. This is an exciting time in my life. I love my place and my space. It’s great having my own front door and having my friends visit and I’m happy we’re being supported by staff we have known for ages. We feel like we’re living in a hotel it’s so posh but it’s also so homely. It’s our new home,” she said.
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government contributed more than €730,000 towards the project, which includes accommodation for a caretaker through Clare County Council who administrates the Department’s Capital Funding Schemes.
Minister O’Sullivan complimented the work of the voluntary housing sector and praised the Banner Housing Association for its continued commitment.
“This project is about independence and community.It’s about giving people their independence to make decisions about their own life but at the same time also to have the neighbours and the tremendous support they have here. It’s a very positive development and I’d like to congratulate everybody involved.”
The minister acknowledged the difficulties faced during these challenging economic times but gave assurances that those more vulnerable in society will not be overlooked by her department.
“Despite declining capital allocations, it is my intention to protect the interests of those most vulnerable in our society from the effects of the cuts in capital allocations – the elderly and persons with a disability, residents of run down estates and flat complexes in need of regeneration, the homeless and persons with specific categories of housing need.”
Speaking at the official launch, Matthew White, chairman of Banner Housing Association, explained the organisation was set up with the aim of providing and maintaining a range of high-quality housing to people with intellectual disabilities in the county.
“We strive to give tenants choice – choice between totally independent living, sharing with friends or availing of facilities with 24 hour nursing support,” he said.
Mr White praised the “huge dedication and co-ordination” of several people and parties involved in the scheme over the years. He made special mention to director Pauline Clune, Max Kraus and his team at Hassett & Leyden, Architects, Tom Henry of TH Contractors and his foreman, Tom Duffy, and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government who provided funding through Clare County Council.
“All of our housing projects are only made possible through a number of partnerships and the association would also like to acknowledge assistance provided by the care teams and tenant families, the Irish Council Social Housing, Ennis Town Council and most crucially the partnership we share with the Brothers of Charity here in Clare.”
“There has been significant mutual support between the Brothers of Charity and our association for the last 10 years as we aim to improve the lives of the tenants. With the delivery of projects like this, the Brothers enjoy ongoing savings in their accommodation and staffing costs with housing, which is embedded in an inclusive way in the community. Much more important than savings in costs, however, projects such as these allow our tenants to enjoy a quality of life that would not have been possible before.”
He also acknowledged the directors and staff of Banner Housing Association, particularly Eamon Finn and Aoibheann Lindsay. He outlined that housing officer David Ryan is co-ordinating a number of more units through various stages of development, which will be available to tenants later this year.
Brothers of Charity CEO Mary Kealy described the official opening as marking a “new beginning for people we support in the Brothers of Charity”.
“We all know there is no place like home, for all of us, no matter what happens in our lives, we immediately think of home. Home is where we are loved, we are welcome and we belong and we feel comfortable and at ease.
“For a long time in the history of services like ours, we didn’t fully respect perhaps how important home is for everyone. Sometimes we thought we were doing the best thing to support people to leave their homes and live in residential units along with other people who perhaps shared a disability but so often little else. We have now come to realise that home is so important. Each of us is unique individuals who want a place of their own,” she said.
Mayor of Clare Pat Hayes reflected on the “great community spirit” throughout the county, and he appealed to the minister to ensure that funding continues to be provided for the voluntary housing sector. Representing the Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Mary Coote Ryan described the launch as “wonderful”.