In a week in which the homeless crisis hit new levels, at least 2,700 people are expected to attend the Day Centre in Dublin’s Bow St today for its Christmas Parcel Day, collecting specially prepared food parcels.
Last year, around 3,000 people received a parcel and more could attend today, with 2,700 tickets issued last week in a bid to streamline the process and reduce the amount of time people will have to spend queuing.
Cork-born Brother Kevin, 82, said it is “so sad, in this day and age, to have so many people queueing for food parcels. I think it is absolutely appalling.”
He told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme that while demand for food parcels has remained consistent, there has been an increase in the number of families seeking baby food and nappies, with as many as 1,000 people looking for those items throughout last week.
Last year on December 22nd, it was Christmas parcel day and almost 3,000 people collected the blue bags filled with food. Brother Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin Day Centre dicusses their plan for this #Christmas #TodaySOR— Today with Claire Byrne (@TodaywithClaire) December 21, 2017
The Capuchin Day Centre has long been seeking a dedicated social worker to help assist some of its clients and Br Kevin said this might finally happen after receiving recent assurances.
He said the homelessness crisis means families are struggling and that urgent action is required, claiming it is time Dublin City Council and the Government get together to start building houses, otherwise the problem will only escalate.
“We have heard ministers talk and heard TDs talk, for so many years, that the homeless people will be taken care of and everybody will get a bed. I find it so difficult to see that there are so many people without a home and especially the children and their parents going into hotels — to me that is absolutely appalling.
“I remember one child saying to me last year, he said: ‘Brother Kevin, will Santy know where I am this year? Will he be able to find out where I am staying?’ ”
Preparation of the food parcels, which contain items such as bread, sugar, and butter, began yesterday evening and will be completed this morning when chickens are popped into the bags. People are expected to be handed parcels from 9am and most parcels will have been issued by 11.30am.
Running costs at the day centre are around €3.3m a year, said Br Kevin, while State funding has remained static at €450,000 annually.
However, donations from the public have filled the gap.
“We have never gone short of food and we have never gone short of money,” he said.
The centre will stay closed for Christmas Day, when many people in need of food will attend an event at the RDS, but it will reopen on December 26.
One future visitor could be Pope Francis, amid speculation that he could attend the centre when he comes to Ireland next year.
Br Kevin said: “It would be a great privilege for the homeless to sit down and have a meal with Pope Francis and I am sure that he will come to visit the homeless here in the Capuchin Day Centre.”