By Rob McNamara
The head of Cork City’s Penny Dinners charity, Caitriona Twomey, has called on the Government to spend more money on frontline services in a week which saw the death of four men who used the service.
In an impassioned Facebook post that has sparked a huge online reaction, Ms Twomey said more needed to be done to help those impacted by addiction and mental health problems and to sort out the rental crisis, which has left many working people unable to afford food.
Ms Twomey - who received an honorary doctorate of laws at UCC earlier this yea - said that in her many years helping the homeless, this was the highest number of deaths among people who frequent Penny Dinners.
“We’ve lost quite a lot this year. It hasn’t been a kind year to anyone,” she told the Evening Echo.
“From the start of the winter, right up until now, we have lost quite a lot of people. It’s unprecedented.
“Four in one week is shocking. If the services were in place, it’s likely that these people would have gotten the help that they needed.
“The Government need to step up to the mark, because the rental market is non-existent for the majority of people. It is unaffordable and they can’t make the rents. We have people in here working in jobs and most of their money is going on rent and they are coming into us for food. These are hard-working people, that are working for minimum wage.
“That’s an indicator that something is wrong. If you work a full week, you should at least be entitled to your rent, to pay your bills, and have a ‘few bob’ in your pocket,” she added.
Ms Twomey has said another hospital is needed in Cork to deal with the number of people waiting for beds and that more money must be invested in mental health services.
“We are short of mental health services, big time. The people that work in the services are very good. Nurses and doctors are also doing a magnificent job, but they are saving lives under third-world conditions, like field hospitals. We need another hospital in Cork and we need it ASAP,” she added.
Ms Twomey said other users of Penny Dinners have been left shaken by the deaths. “It is putting the fear into people and taking away the hope,” she said.
Penny Dinners serves 2,000 meals every week at Little Hanover Street.
You can donate to Penny Dinners on corkpennydinners.ie
This story first appeared in the Evening Echo