Plans for cafe to be run by former addicts and prisoners

By Maurice Garvey

PROPOSALS for a social enterprise café in Ballyfermot staffed by former addicts and prisoners who have been trained could include a mobile cart for different locations.

Plans for the social enterprise initiative by Ballyfermot Star, have progressed after the success of a pop-up café in the Civic Centre before Christmas.

Ballyfermot Leisure Centre

A small outlet may be based at the Ballyfermot Sports and Fitness Centre 

The Star, who provide support to people and families who have experienced substance abuse, have been working on the proposal for a while.

They hope to train and progress service users into full time employment via the initiative.

They delivered a presentation to the Dublin South Central area meeting on Wednesday (January 16), detailing updated progress on the plans, first heard in the council in 2017.

Local councillors have backed the proposal as a positive move for the area, should it get backing from Dublin City Council.

The Star have mooted the possibility of a small outlet in the foyer of the Ballyfermot Sports and Fitness Centre, which presently has no provision for refreshments, but has a monthly footfall of 3,500 people.

Sunniva Finlay, Chief Operating officer at Ballyfermot Star, said the vision is to showcase local enterprise and “fill an existing gap in the community.”

“It would be a place where people can come and meet, eat healthy food at a low cost.”

Ms Finlay highlighted the potential benefits of securing local employment for addicts and former prisoners.

“We know many of the barriers for people in recovery is accessing employment. Lack of confidence, experience and education can be impounded by fear of employers.

“People in recovery or coming from prison need a reference to help get into the workforce. Before Christmas we did a pop-up café in the Civic and they really enjoyed it, selling tea and cakes. It was the first experience and earned over €1k. Anything left over has gone back into training.”

Star Chairperson Ailbhe Smyth said their research has been costed and detailed, and that they are looking for a start-up fund from the council for a cart.

One of the three options by the Star on Wednesday was for a cart, priced at €50k.

“We are confident in our research and want to test the water. It is important DCC support us and we work closely, we believe it is a good model,” said Ms Smyth.

Councillors supported the proposal, including Cllr Vincent Jackson who said it was vital to provide a second chance for service users.

“As Chair of the Dublin Prison Committee, I know if someone is seen as a pariah in their community, they are never allowed a chance to escape. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Cllr Jackson said the initiative could be a mobile unit that can be used at other locations.

Mary Taylor, Executive Manager DCC, said it was a “worthwhile initiative” but highlighted a couple of social enterprise cafes that went out of business on the northside.

“It is not easy but we are happy to support it,” she said.

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