THE JUNCTION : A Project of St. Andrews Resource Centre
10 Oct 2013
This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Westland Row/City Quay Social Service Centre, which evolved into St Andrew's Resource Centre. The board of the Centre decided that this important anniversary should be marked by a special project that :
- enhanced the range and quality of the services provided by the Centre
- demonstrated an innovative approach to service delivery
- was financially sustainable both in the development and implementation phases
- reflected the Centre's strong principle of partnership with statutory agencies, business supporters and the local community.
DEVELOPING THE CONCEPT
The parameters of the project developed from a combination of the well-defined and urgent needs of two of the key services offered by the Centre. The Youth Service - Talk about Youth - which has been operated by the Centre for many years provides a comprehensive range of individual, group and community based programmes to support a holistic vision of personal development for the young people of the area, with special reference to those facing particular needs and challenges.
Its programmes are tailored to the needs and interests of young people at each stage of development and includes on-going programmes through the year, as well as special events and initiatives, including youth exchanges and award schemes. There is a special emphasis on countering substance abuse.
Part of the rationale of the youth service is to develop the skills and confidence of young people and to encourage them to exercise leadership roles. In that context, there is a special emphasis on supporting local youth groups and their voluntary leaders, including young members themselves, to develop and implement their own plans and to operate to the highest recognised standards. The youth service also operates in the context of St Andrew's principle of operating a coherent and integrated approach to meeting needs across the life-cycle, and so cooperates with the other services and programmes operated by the Centre.
While the youth service has full access to the services, space and facilities of the Resource Centre, this is necessarily on the basis of shared space. We also have access to a small unit provided to the Centre by Trinity College which is used for small groups engaged in hobby, craft and game activities. There is a particular lack of a high quality space for informal use by young people for informal gatherings, discussion and socialising in a safe environment in the evenings and week-ends, which would be and be experienced as their own space.
To that end, the Centre identified the need to secure such a space which could draw on the resources of the Centre, including the youth service team. The Centre has also long operated an employment service, which forms part of the Inner-City Employment Service with the support of the Department of Social Protection and previously FAS. The Job Centre provides personal advice and guidance to those looking for work, many of whom are referred by the local office of the Dept of Social Protection. In addition, the Job Centre works with its clients to identify and pursue opportunities for work experience, training and job placement, including through the employment programmes, welfare rights and other services provided by the Centre. One of the pathways open to clients of the Job Centre is that of self-employment through the development of micro-enterprise. For those who wish to explore this option, there is a need for time, space and support to research their concept, develop a business plan and secure the necessary resources.
The pressure on space in the Centre precludes offering such facilities which, in any event, require a degree of quiet and privacy. Having agreed a partnership agreement with Inner-City Enterprise, an organisation which has a strong track record of supporting start-ups, the Centre identified the need to secure a high quality space which would be used during the day by those developing enterprise projects. The combination of these two service needs pointed to a solution which would entail a shared space which would be intensively used by two distinct services with very different client needs and profiles, but with similar space and service configurations.
The Centre became aware of the fortuitous availability of a virtually adjoining premises as a result of the closure of a business which had been trading as a grocer and newsagent. The two-storey building occupies a prominent and bright corner location at the junction of Pearse Street and Macken Street.
The Centre approached the owners of the building, Dublin City Council, to propose that the building be made available to the Centre to provide the innovative combined use outlined above in service of the community. The Centre has enjoyed a long and positive relationship with Dublin City Council in the areas of community development, physical planning, public amenities and culture. More specifically, the Council asked the Resource Centre to take on the operation and management of the Gloucester Street Sport and Recreation Centre, which it had developed. This has been operated by the Centre for the past 6 years as a highly successful social enterprise with a combination of commercial and community use, including extensive use by local schools.
Against that successful background, the City Council responded very positively to this approach, having regard to the proposed putting to good use of a prominent building and the specific services to be provided. Their agreement extended to refurbishing the structure to make it suitable for occupation for the intended uses. In parallel, the Centre briefed its contacts in the local business community, including the Docklands Business Forum, on its plans for the project and the resources and financing which would be necessary to enable the City Council's offer of the building to result in a viable service.
The response was extremely positive, including in particular the provision of design and architectural services free of charge by Darmody Architects who supervised the development. Financial support for the refurbishing and equipping of the premises was generously provided by Dublin City Council, POBAL, Betfair, State Street Bank, 02, DCH Partners, UBS.
Other support was provided by City of Dublin Youth Service Board, Local Drugs Task Force and Pearse Hotel.
The result of the planning and cross-sectoral partnership in the development of this project is that we have delivered a new, high quality resource for the community, which is addressing important community needs. The highly cost-effective development represents a significant enhancement of the community infrastructure and a development in the range and quality of our services at a time when funding cuts and general resource restrictions threaten the maintenance of existing services.
The successful experience of the cooperative effort in bringing the project to fruition has further strengthened the partnership relationships between the Resource Centre and its statutory and business supporters.
Finally, the project - which has been branded as THE JUNCTION to underline its distinct and innovative character - represents a fitting and lasting celebration of an important anniversary of a community organisation which remains committed to addressing the changing needs of the parishes of Westland Row and City Quay.