Centre gives homeless hope during big freeze
DECLAN Cummins lost his sleeping bag on Wednesday night. And he almost lost one of his shoes.
"I was asleep and a couple of guys came up to me and grabbed my sleeping bag. They had one of my runners too, it was half-on and half-off, I got up and snapped it back from them and put it back on my foot."
He points over to the shuttered entrance to a warehouse. "I'm sleeping over there beside that gutter," he says.
The ledge overhanging the doorway is narrow and the ground is covered with a deep layer of snow.
The 29-year-old is one of dozens of people who were sheltering from sub-zero conditions at the Capuchin day centre on Dublin's Bow Street yesterday.
Mr Cummins said without the centre he would have to walk about in the slush all day trying to stay warm.
"You look for places to go just to get out of the cold, or else you just stick it out. I want to be with my family, I have a 10-year-old daughter. It's hard, sometimes I cry," he said.
Yesterday, the 20 or so tables that line the hall inside the centre were all full with men and women eating a dinner of roast beef, potatoes and cabbage.
For many of those present, it is the only hot meal they will have that day.
The director of the centre, Br Kevin Crowley, said he has seen the numbers of people depending on free food grow enormously.
"We used to have about 400 people coming here for food parcels, now we have 950 to 1,000 and the numbers of people coming for dinner now stand at more than 450 a day," he told the Irish Independent.
Br Kevin said many of the people who end up coming to the centre have lost their jobs in the recession and are living on the dole.
"My greatest fear is that we will have our funding cut in the Budget. We get €450,000 from the Government but our running costs are €1.2m so we depend on the generosity of the people to keep us running."
Outside the centre, twins Anthony and Stephen Jackson (25) are preparing to walk the streets until their hostel opens later in the night.
"To be honest with you the only thing that's keeping us warm is the drink. We're drinking a lot and every person in there is in the exact same situation," Stephen said.
After growing up in care, both brothers became homeless at the age of 18.
Stephen wanted to work with homeless people after studying social science.
"You are waking around from half nine in the morning until 10 o'clock at night. It's ridiculous," he said.
"The snow is so thick on the ground. I put newspaper down my shoes just to keep warm."