Saturday 16 December 2017

Girl (3) among homeless lining up for a hot meal

Volunteers Sinead Kane and Tracey Byrne hand out hot meals to the homeless outside the GPO in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Volunteers Sinead Kane and Tracey Byrne hand out hot meals to the homeless outside the GPO in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers

Ciara Treacy

It's after 8.30pm outside the GPO and a little girl in pink wellies with bouncing pigtails is beaming.

"Curry," she squeals, the three-year-old's eyes lighting up at a shiny metal pot towering over her tiny frame. She is correct, although the lid isn't even open - she has obviously seen the container before.

This is not a dinner served at a kitchen table or a family treat in one of O'Connell Street's eateries. It is a soup kitchen for the homeless.

"They're living in a hotel, her mother just wanted some food to bring home to their hotel room," says Sinead Kane, a founding member of Hope in the Darkness.

"We have mammies and daddies who come and they'll get a big stack of dinners to bring back to feed their family because they don't have the facilities to cook."

With Easter Rising commemorations putting the historic building in the spotlight, Hope in the Darkness is using its grounds to help those with a shadow cast over them by society.

It is one of the proliferation of groups set up in recent times to distribute food and clothing to the homeless of Dublin, with up to 300 people coming to its pop-up kitchen four nights a week.

There are six enthusiastic volunteers operating from a small table but the group's total membership is double that - including three women who travel up from Wexford to lend a hand.

Read more: Wrong homes being built in wrong places

Anything provided, from supermarket vouchers to haircuts for the homeless, is sourced through appeals on Facebook.

"It's actually like giving the public a shopping list and they bring us what we need," Sinead explains. "We had a man pull up in a car and he is after giving us a donation for exactly what we asked for on the page.

"There are other soup kitchens in Dublin doing the same thing and I reckon a lot of people would be found dead in doorways if only for the soup kitchens of Dublin.

"The numbers have got bigger since we started in November.

"Last week, we ran out of food after an hour. Right now we're looking for a storage facility in Dublin 1 to hold the donations."

The users are "just people who fell on hard times", Sinead maintains.

"Some of them will stay around for the duration, tell us about their kids, tell us about people who treated them bad on the street and they know we won't do that. It's a friendly place to come."

Read more: Record numbers living in emergency accommodation

One regular user, Jason Boyne, is originally from north Dublin but has been homeless for 15 years. He said that without the support of the group he wouldn't have been able to start treatment to get off methadone.

"The doctors said they have seen a huge change in me and it's all thanks to the ladies here. Without them I wouldn't have done it."

Stories like this are among the few that shine a beacon of hope into the work done here.

A father-of-five with limited English points at a street cleaner going past.

He says "job" and then, while pointing to himself: "No money, no job, no hope".

Irish Independent

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