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Saturday 25 November 2017

Ireland's 'new poor' join queue for food parcels

Ireland's new poor struggling to survive the job losses of the recession are among hundreds queueing for free food parcels each week.

Little children taken to shelters for hot meals are pretending to school friends they are taken to hotels for lunch everyday.

As the Government publishes a four-year master plan to get the country back on the road to recovery, the stark truth about some of Dublin's most disadvantaged is laid bare at a day centre run by monks.

Campaigner Brother Kevin Crowley revealed people are living in fear of a planned €6bn budget.

"People are in fear of what's going to happen. There's anxiety. The biggest fear is the budget," he said.

"One of the things I'm concerned about is how the poor and working class people come out the worst in all of these situations."

The Capuchin Day Centre was founded by Brother Kevin in the late 1960s. At the time just 50 food parcels a week were handed out to Dublin's homeless, many of whom had drink or drug addictions.

"We have a new kind of person coming now," he continued.

"Over the last year we have people who are finding it difficult to make ends meet, who have problems trying to run their homes and these are the people that we call the new poor.

"A number of people are of course ashamed to come to a place like this for food. It's very difficult to queue in the street for food.

"It's degrading for people.

"Some of the little kids that come in here with their parents have to tell their pals in school they're going to a hotel for their dinner."

Up to 250 breakfasts and 400 hot lunches are dished out to the city's most disadvantaged every day.

About half of those taking shelter in the warmth are Irish. The rest are foreigners who came to Ireland during the boom years to try to make a better life.

The majority are middle aged men, the harsh years of their lives etched on their faces.

A steady stream of people queue outside where 900 shopping bags stuffed with basics like milk, bread and tea are handed out each week - a shocking figure that has doubled over the last year.

Brother Kevin insisted even at the height of the Celtic Tiger Dublin still had its fair share of poor.

"But now, especially with the recession, people are really living in fear and desperation," he continued.

"I have met people who lost their jobs and have to come for a food parcel.

"We don't ask any questions because we think it's difficult for people to come to a place like this.

"I feel people wouldn't be coming here if they weren't in need. We show them respect and dignity.

"Some say it makes a huge difference to their lives."

Running costs for the centre are €1.2m a year, with just €450,000 from the Government. The rest is made up through donations, fundraising and the time given by 100-plus volunteers.

Former heroin addict Noel Fagan said Dublin's homeless would starve without the centre, where men and women can shower and get clean clothes.

Cradling a mug of hot tea, he looks at ease as he smiles and holds out his warm hands.

"It's the warmth of the people in this place," he laughed.

"The staff. They're great. They'd do anything for you. There's one of the staff, he went over to watch a Liverpool match at the weekend and he brought me back a Liverpool jersey."

Now in his 40s and living in a B&B, Mr Fagan revealed he lost his flat, car, job and two kids because of drugs. He has been visiting the centre daily since he became homeless around 12 years ago.

"The food is great and it's for free. That's why there's so many people in here," he said.

"I mean Wednesday is the busiest morning of the week because they get the shopping bag.

"You'd be lost if this place wasn't here. You'd starve. The people on the street would starve."

Press Association

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