Fire blaze at Matt Talbot building causes major disruption to project

By Maurice Garvey

A FIRE at the Matt Talbot Community Trust building in Ballyfermot has caused significant disruption to the outreach project - however staff and service users continue to soldier on without kitchen and wifi facilities.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire, which occurred on Friday night approximately at 12.30am, and gutted out the building which contains the project’s kitchen, workshops and wifi connection.

West Pg 2 Matt Talbot 10

Founded in 1986 by Sr Caoimhín Ní Uallachaín, Matt Talbot Community Trust provides educational and social supports for individuals in recovery from addiction and returning from prison.

Located on a site to the rear of the Assumption Church in Ballyfermot, the Trust has two buildings and is often home to 14 people on any given workday, but also has close ties to other outreach projects and initiatives in the area.

“We are trying to focus on the positives, we are lucky to have the second building and the group continue to attend,” said Gráinne Jennings, Director of the Trust.

“We can’t operate out of the other building until repair work is completed but we are reviewing that week by week.”

The damaged building was used to make breakfast, lunch and carry out preparation for the days work for service users – who also used the site for internet research into education and work projects.

Trust members were trying to fix some of the issues this week, but the bigger challenge will be finding funds to revamp the damaged building, which could easily run into five figure territory.

Ms Jennings continued: “From a financial perspective, the fire has had a significant impact – routine is important for everyone but we are attending to emerging issues as they arise.

“It was so sad to see the damage but the positive is that we are still able to function, and hope to get the space up and running as soon as possible.

“We literally run the organisation on a shoestring so the question is how do we manage. Even securing the building after the fire was an immediate financial cost to the budget.”

With the construction industry in the midst of a notoriously busy period in the run up to Christmas, it has been difficult to secure the services of tradesmen, and the Trust have appealed for local contractors to get in touch.

“We are very much a community within a community,” said Ms Jennings.

“Matt Talbot have been part of the community for over 30 years. We still have a cohort from the first group who passed through. They come back for breakfast and lunch. Relationships are key. It is like an extended family.”

Looking ahead, Jennings said they are fortunate to be located on a sizeable site and plan to expand the service.

She continued: “We are sitting on almost one acre which is a phenomenal amount for a small charity, but there is huge potential for the future.

“We managed to secure some space out the back from Dublin City Council (part of the former senior citizen complex). The plan is for an edible community, not necessarily an allotment, but to grow, contribute and eat. We love food here and want to bring in the community to celebrate food.

“In some ways, the fire might give us a push to revisit and push forward with plans in some way.”

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