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Tuesday 25 April 2017

Sign of the times as queues for soup kitchens grow

Tucking into a welcome meal at the Capuchin Day
Centre in Dublin
Tucking into a welcome meal at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin
The numbers finding it difficult to make ends meet has grown rapidly over the past year
Brother Kevin Crowley

Nadia Mathiasen

BREAKFAST roll man personified the boom, but builders and their families are now joining charity food queues in alarming numbers.

And soup kitchens and food centres providing meals for those in need are struggling to cope with the rising demand for their services as job losses mount and the downturn deepens.

They are reporting increases of up to 13.3pc in demand this year, with construction workers joining cash-strapped families for food parcels.

Brother Kevin Crowley, who has run the Capuchin Day Centre in Bowe Street, Dublin since he opened it in 1969, said the number of people lining up outside for the two daily meals has increased dramatically.

To begin with, about 50 to 60 people came in daily, while now, in spite of the country's recent economic growth, he feeds up to 340 people a day.

The situation is worsening dramatically as the economy slides.

"They can't find work and they come because they haven't got sufficient money to keep them going," he said.

Brother Crowley said that their dole money is not enough to finance their accommodation and they have little choice but to turn to the centre for food.

"It is busy all the time but we have noticed that the numbers have got bigger in the last few weeks," he said.

The last 12 months have seen a significant increase in the numbers of people lining up outside the centre on its busiest days, with crowds of 340 now common.

The number of food parcels they give to people to take home every week has also gone up -- from 250 a week two years ago to 500 today. Other charities are reporting similar trends.

Merchants Quay Ireland has seen a 9.2pc increase in the served meals from January to October this year compared to the same period in 2007.

Busier

Focus Ireland, which provides hot meals at its coffee shop and advice centre in Temple Bar in Dublin, also says it has never been busier than in recent weeks.

"People losing their jobs are finding it hard to cope with paying the rent or mortgage due to losing their income and the rising cost of living is making things even worse for them," Roughan MacNamara, of Focus, said yesterday, adding that charities need support from the public more than ever.

Last year Focus Ireland served 45,000 meals -- an increase of 164.7pc since 2002.

Some experts believe the number of people on Irish dole queues could hit 320,000 next year, up from the current 250,000, with food charities admitting they are already struggling to cope with demand.

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