A St Vincent de Paul Society in a provincial town has witnessed a 40% rise in demand for its service.
The society in Tralee has also been forced to open a new branch to assist hard-pressed institute of technology students living in Kerry’s county town. The assistance is being provided in conjunction with student support groups.
IT students union president Niall Harty said many students were suffering poverty because of Government cuts and are facing electricity cut-offs because they can’t pay their bills.
He said it was vital for the Government to continue paying the students’ assistance fund, but there was no provision for continuing the fund after 2013.
Christy Lynch, of Tralee’s St Vincent de Paul, said some students were finding life very difficult, because they had lost so much financial support.
“We’ve found situations where students can’t pay the rent, or feed themselves, and neither can their parents afford to help them,” he said.
Mr Lynch also said the society’s Tralee offices were exceptionally busy dealing with requests for help from hundreds of families in the town and surrounding areas.
The public was being very generous in donating money, food and other goods, but the society was still struggling to meet demands, he said.
“Problems have grown hugely in the past year and the number of people coming to us for help has grown by about 40% in the past year,” Mr Lynch said.
He said the situation was getting worse year-on-year and many people coming to them for help had already exhausted every other avenue.
Many people are struggling to make ends meet, provide heating for themselves and, sometimes, to feed themselves.
Mr Lynch pointed out the society is helping people from many different backgrounds and walks of life.
“While we’re helping hundreds of families and individuals, we think there are still many more people out there who haven’t come to us, probably because of pride,” said Mr Lynch.
“Something that should not be forgotten is that people are not suffering poverty just at Christmas, they are in difficulty all the time.”
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