Food queues lengthen as centre offers meals to feed ever growing demand

THE line of people looking for food parcels at the Capuchin Centre in Dublin city centre is getting longer, not shorter, more than two years after photographs of the queues made the front pages.

At the weekly dispensing of food parcels from the centre on Bow Street, an estimated 1,011 people turned up, with others making contact by phone to see if it was possible to call in later to pick up a parcel.

Br Kevin Crowley, the Cork-born Capuchin Friar who has worked at the centre since 1969, said a further 250 people can call in every day for a sit-down breakfast, while up to 500 can pack the dining room for dinner.

It all adds up to a growing number of people who are coming to rely on handouts from the centre.

“It has got worse,” Br Kevin said. “It has got worse in the sense that you would have thought things would have eased off.”

One person living on the far edge of the city called on Wednesday to see if he could get a parcel, and Br Kevin told him to come in. Following his credo of not prying too deeply into the lives of clients, he said the man sounded like he had lost his job and was struggling to meet mortgage repayments.

One of the features of the food queue two years ago was the number of foreign nationals in it, something which raised the hackles of some Irish people using the service.

However, Br Kevin said there were now fewer foreign nationals and more Irish availing of the food parcels than was previously the case.

“A lot of the Polish people are gone back — the people who can not find work [in Ireland] are gone back,” he said.

“Our motto is if someone comes to us for food they would not do so if they were not in need. It is difficult enough to be in a queue without being asked all kinds of questions.”

That said, sometimes when people pull up in cars they do not receive food, unless they plead their case.

Much of the relationship between the staff at the centre and the clients is based on trust.

As for the cost, Br Kevin said: “We only have to hope for the best and rely on the generosity of the people.”

Running costs at the centre stand at €1.3 million per year, with €450,000 coming from the state. The remainder is raised through donations, and Br Kevin said the centre was always open to more food donations, as long as it is in date.

He recalled how once, a year ago, a health inspector threw a sandwich he had intended on eating for his own lunch in the bin as it was out of date by one day.

A large collection is planned on O’Connell Street on December 3 and acclaimed band Bell X1 will play a concert in Dublin next month to raise funds for the centre, by which time the budget will have been published.

Br Kevin had some advance words of advice for the Government: “Be kind to the underprivileged and the poor. They are always hammered, they are the first targets.”

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