THE Vintage Parlour Tea Rooms played host to a very special evening on Wednesday, June 26 when Tinteán Housing Association celebrated their 20th anniversary.
The service, which provides accommodation and support to women experiencing homelessness in Waterford City and County, has been invaluable to countless women over the past two decades, many of whom came to the tea rooms to celebrate pay homage to the group.
Tinteán started in June 1999 after four separate organisations –The Good Shepard Sisters, Waterford Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre, Oasis House Women’s Refuge and St Vincent de Paul – came together to provide a service for women aged 18 and over who found themselves homeless. Claire O’Sullivan, who took over as manager of the service three years ago, described it as “inspirational”.
“The strength that we have drawn from the strong female mentors in Tinteán has definitely sustained the organisation over the past 20 years,” Claire said. “Women such as Helen Kiely – Chair of the Board, Ann Scully, Secretary of the Board, Therese and the other Board members have been vital for always providing mentoring and support for all the women who have stayed with us, and also for me to help me do what needs to be done as manager. Tintean is a community, made up of people with different values, opinions and world views who accept and embrace each other by living together.”
“That’s what Tintean does”, Claire said. “It provides a space for reflection, change and growth and most importantly of all, a sense of belonging.”
Two women with whom that sense of belonging was palpable were Alice Shannon and Dawn Quigley.
“In 1996, I found myself homeless in Waterford,” said Alice. “I didn’t know anyone, and knew nothing of any organisations that could possibly help me. For a woman out there, sleeping rough, is so much tougher because you feel like you can’t defend yourself.”
Alice said she tried to counteract the homelessness by getting involved in “everything and anything that was going”.
“Anywhere where there was a free cup of tea, I was there,” she said. “Organisations such as Waterford Area Partnership and Oasis House were a Godsend, but the big problem was that there was no space. If you didn’t have a child or were affected by domestic violence you were never guaranteed the space. When Francis House opened in Airmount, 11 of the 13 rooms were full within six weeks, which told you all you needed to know about the need for shelter at the time.”
Tinteán’s 20th anniversary was an emotional release for Alice Shannon who couldn’t say enough for what the organisation and its staff had done for her, but also what they could do for others.
“I just want to get the message out there, especially to young people who find themselves on hard times, that whatever trouble they’re in, there is help out there,” Alice said. “Only for Tinteán, I wouldn’t have a place in this world and somewhere to call home.”
Dawn Quigley, another of Tinteán’s service users, and a reluctant public speaker by her own admission, told the packed Tea Rooms, what Tinteán had done for her.
“When I was homeless, I thought I had no hope in my life,” she said. “Walking around the streets, feeling helpless and sad, I didn’t know what the future held for myself and my children. I was told about Tinteán by some friends and I came down and spoke to them about what I had been through. I told them that I needed their help and within a few days, I had a roof over my head.”
Dawn moved into a Tinteán house after a year, with the usual supports and services just a few yards away.
“I made it my home, and my children were delighted to call over to me, happy that I finally had a place to call my own,” she said.
“I’m so thankful of all the support that I got from Tinteán. They have turned me into a more powerful, and determined person. When I think about it, I would have been so lost and helpless if I never learned about Tinteán.”
If you or someone you know, would like more information about Tinteán, they are on Facebook at @Tinteanwaterford or on the phone at (051) 844076.