One of Ireland’s largest and longest-serving charities has warned the number of people seeking help with basic needs like food and heat remains at record levels.
The St Vincent de Paul (SVP) said that despite some parts of the economy enjoying recovery it was still taking twice as many calls from the poorest in society than in 2009.
Its volunteers will visit about 140,000 people between now and Christmas.
And in the midst of a homelessness and rent crisis, the charity said an increasing part of its work was supporting families at risk of losing their home or living in emergency accommodation like hotels and B&Bs.
Launching its annual appeal, St Vincent de Paul said calls for help were up 4% in the eastern part of the country but marginally down in other regions.
Kieran Stafford, national vice-president, said most people who needed the society’s help were struggling week in and week out on a basic minimum income from welfare or low-paid work.
“It can still take just one small problem to tip a family into a crisis,” he said.
“We want to emphasise that we are here primarily to help people over a hard time and sometimes that is sufficient to ensure that they don’t slip into long-term poverty.
“We know that a little help at the right time can change everything for someone in crisis.”
St Vincent de Paul spends about €40m a year on food, energy, education, clothing and furniture for families in or at risk of poverty, as well as toys at Christmas.
“We depend almost entirely on donations from the public and corporate supporters in order to be able to provide this help,” Mr Stafford said.
While calling for direct donations, the society has also launched a series of fundraising initiatives on its website including a virtual gift store, a giving tree and food appeal, Christmas cards and help running events.
Among those already supporting this year’s campaign are Mrs Brown’s Boys creator Brendan O’Carroll who will provide more than 2,500 Christmas dinners to families in the greater Dublin area and Aldi which is asking shoppers to leave a wrapped gift in stores from November 23 to December 4.
Mr Stafford said its annual appeal was crucial for it to supply the basic essentials such as food, clothes, energy, education and furniture to families.
“This help allows many families struggling on low incomes to be able to meet increasing rental costs,” he said.
“SVP is often the first port of call with volunteers working with families to relieve acute financial pressure and give them the space to breath and increasingly avoid homelessness.
“Visiting families in their homes allows our volunteers to see at an early stage when meeting increasing rental costs are placing an extreme financial burden on such families.”