The Community Befriending service was established in Depaul in response to a need among ex-residents of Back Lane Hostel to help with the change to independent living. Once a service user is referred to the program by Back Lane staff they are matched with a Befriending volunteer. Through the support of dedicated volunteers, participants are encouraged to re-engage with local communities and establish supportive relationships with their peer group.
Matt has been a Befriending Volunteer since 2019. Brian was a resident in Back Lane, before moving onto independent living in 2010. The two have been paired as part of Depaul’s Befriending Programme since 2019. Here they tell us more about the importance of the Community Befriending Programme to support those moving on from homelessness.
If you could see Matt and Brian together, you would think they were lifelong friends. They share an easiness together, a comfort that comes from understanding another person with no judgement.
The pair agree that they are complete opposites – and it works. Brian with his larger than life personality, while Matt describes himself as a much quieter man.
“I’m quite dull actually. Brian is the interesting one! I could listen to him talk all day.”
The two have known each other just 3 years, having been linked together through Depaul’s Community Befriending Programme. They met up weekly to share a cup of tea together and continued their weekly outings as soon as it was safe after Covid.
They both share similar interests, which helps them to talk and laugh, without having to speak about the heavy stuff.
Brian says, “We’re similar ages. We’ve got the same taste in music, in books… We grew up in the same era so we really understand each other. It’s like talking to someone who I grew up with you know. We just get each other. “
“We’re into history and geography. We’re not interested in that internet stuff like the young people. If I say a song from the 60’s he’ll now it. That’s the kind of thing that keeps us connected.”
Matt, a volunteer since his retirement 3 years ago, is a very modest man, and will down-play his contribution to Brian’s life. When asked about the good things he does such as remembering Brian’s birthday he says, it’s an easy thing to do.
“I just associate that date with him now, and I’ll remember to wish him a happy birthday.”
When you mention his birthday to Brian, there’s a smile he can’t hide. “I always tell him there’s no need to go to any fuss, but he always remembers. Always marks it with something. I really appreciate that.”
Matt is in awe of Brian, and all he has achieved, knowing it hasn’t been easy for him.
“When I met Brian first he was drinking and there’s a big change now. He’s come full circle. It’s probably the most difficult thing someone can do and I really admire him for that. He sees the value in changing in his life.
“He’s a great man. It was down to his determination that he did that. He deserves to be proud of himself.”
Of this period in his life, Brian is grateful for how much the Befriending Programme helped.
“My greatest friend back then was alcohol. I had very few friends. But Befriending helped so much. I really needed the other members of Befriending.”
The pair still look forward to their meet ups, taking in cafes around the city.
Brian says, “We meet once a week and spend an hour together. It’s great. We stayed in contact during Covid, either by phone, or we had socially distant meet-ups when it was safe.”
“This photo here was taken during Covid I think. We go here sometimes, to the Garden of Remembrance. Only one day Matt forgot his phone so now we call it the Garden of Forgetfulness! We still have a good laugh about that.”
Brian (left) and Matt (right) in the Garden of Remembrance
To support the work of Depaul, you can make a donation or consider volunteering with the Community Befriending Programme here.