A homeless man who walked 10km with a toddler in a toy buggy to get a hot meal for his family has thanked Cork Penny Dinners for turning their lives around.
Earlier this month, a husband and wife and their children walked from their emergency accommodation in Little Island on the outskirts of the city to the soup kitchen on Little Hanover Street.
The family were staying in a hotel after they lost their rental accommodation when their landlord decided to sell.
In an interview on theon Cork’s 96FM, a man who gave his name as ‘Sean’, said they were destitute when they arrived at Penny Dinners that day.
He said the child’s buggy had broken, they couldn’t afford transport and were hungry.
“Caitriona Twomey (CEO) of Cork Penny Dinners was amazing. She helped us along our journey from start to finish. She is a God send of a woman. She gave us the drive to keep going. You are in dire straits and you need to get food.”
You feel like a failure. A pure and utter failure to your kids and your partner and your family. You are at your wits end. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
The family said they were in receipt of one meal a day in emergency accommodation. The couple and their three children, the youngest of whom is six weeks old were struggling to survive.
“We got one meal a day in the hotel. We were thankful to get the one meal. But you have breakfast lunch and dinner for four people seven days a week.
"That is always in the back of your mind. Where is the next meal coming from? We felt very helpless. You try your best but your best is not good enough.”
Sean and the family are now settled in rental accommodation through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme.
He is actively seeking construction work and keen to get the family back to normal after the blight of unemployment and being made homeless.
He says the people of the city owe a huge debt to Cork Penny Dinners which is run by local woman Caitriona Twomey.
I used to go there to get milk. It might not sound like much to most people but by God when you are in that situation you might as well give some fella a lump of gold.
"Caitriona organised most things for us that we needed. She has so much positivity. The kids never left Penny Dinners without a toy."
Penny Dinners is providing up to 2,000 dinners a week compared to 80 in the Celtic Tiger years.
Caitriona Twomey said that people who present to Penny Dinners are often hungry because they only receive breakfast at their emergency accommodation.
She added that some B &B's only provide accommodation and do not offer breakfast to individuals who are in emergency accommodation.
"We have heard of families in B&B's not getting breakfast and children up in their rooms without food with the smell of breakfast coming from downstairs. Some places are better than others.
"There is also a need for Leap Cards because people in emergency accommodation cannot afford transport."