President Higgins outlined the situation as homeless campaigner Br Kevin Crowley said his Capuchin day centre group is providing 560 dinners and nappies for almost 100 families every week, contradicting claims the recession is over.
Speaking at the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Presentation Primary School in Dublin’s inner city on the same day as new Central Bank mortgage rules were published, Mr Higgins said Ireland’s wealth gap “challenge” remained an ever-apparent threat.
Calling on those in positions of power to address growing housing, rental and homelessness crisis both in the capital and across the country, he angrily said what is happening to thousands of people today is entirely unacceptable.
“I was at the Capuchin food centre this morning, they serve 540 breakfasts, give out 1,700 food parcels. It’s not good enough for me to say this is what is done and pay tribute to those doing this. There is a bigger challenge, to be able to eliminate poverty, to be able to set housing in a way that people have expectations, shelter, are able to send their children to school.
“Br Kevin [who runs the Capuchin day centre] gave me an example of someone who is not able to bring home one carton of milk because there isn’t a fridge. This is 2016, 100 years after 1916. It is not acceptable. So there is the challenge.”
The comments were repeated by Br Kevin, who was also attending the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Presentation Primary School and said the demand for his group’s services — both from working families and homeless people — is 400% higher than in 2008.
“In 2016, each morning we have about 300 people for breakfast and that’s anything from 500 to 560 for dinner, six days a week, and then on a Wednesday we give out food parcels.
“Up to the time of the recession, when it began in 2008, we gave out about 400 food parcels and now on any Wednesday morning it would be 1,700.
“Not all of these people are homeless, some are people who have lost their jobs and are on the verge of losing their homes.”
He said he remains deeply concerned that despite widespread attention to house price rises, the rental crisis and the linked escalation of homelessness, the issue is failing to be properly addressed, leaving young families to grow up in avoidable hardship. “We are really concerned about the number of families coming each day for food, nappies and baby food, up to 80 a week. It’s absolutely appalling we have little children in this day and age staying in hotels, people sleeping in parks. It is appalling,” he said.