'Some stuff we receive is disgraceful': Charity asks public to stop donating soiled or dirty items

Members of the public who donate to homeless charities this Christmas are asked to refrain from handing in soiled duvets and underwear or blankets which have previously been used by dogs and are covered in hair.

'Some stuff we receive is disgraceful': Charity asks public to stop donating soiled or dirty items

Members of the public who donate to homeless charities this Christmas are asked to refrain from handing in soiled duvets and underwear or blankets which have previously been used by dogs and are covered in hair.

Caitriona Twomey, who runs Penny Dinners charity in Cork, says that she is genuinely touched by the warmth, thoughtfulness and generosity of the vast majority of the public.

However, a portion of donation bags contain dirty or unusable items which are flung together when householders decide to declutter their properties.

"Our volunteers have opened bags with soiled duvets or even underwear. People think we are looking for anything and everything but some stuff we receive is disgraceful. I would say to people to be mindful of the fact that the homeless have feelings.

"We get blankets that dogs have slept on and they are covered in hair. I would say to people 'Don't give what you wouldn't want yourself.' We end up having to dump stuff.

"We collect shoe boxes for the homeless and most people do a superb job and they are so thoughtful.

"But we have opened shoe boxes with dirty face cloths. It can be quite shocking what comes out of the bags that people donate. People genuinely think they are giving us good stuff. Or they just don't think. All the charities deal with this but it seems worse this year."

Ms Twomey says that homeless people have to make do with second hand clothes all year round. She believes that everyone deserves something new at Christmas and is appealing for new clothes or toys as well as cinema, theatre and pantomime vouchers.

"I feel at Christmas that it should all be brand new stuff. This isn't a time of year when we should be going through rags.

"Or people donate summer stuff in this weather. We always try and do our best to use clothes but we would ask people to think it through before they donate items. Would it be something you would take yourself? Can it really be used or will we have to dump it?"

Penny Dinners provides up to 2,000 dinners a week to the homeless in Cork. They also deliver food hampers to needy people.

Ms Twomey has seen all variety of hardship at their base in Little Hanover Street in the city centre over the years.

She is urging the public to lift the spirits of the homeless by donating gifts which take them in off the streets for a few hours.

“We would be asking for cinema vouchers, tickets for the pantomime or Cork on Ice. It’s a long day for people when they are homeless and out in the cold and it gives people such a lift to attend such things. Alan Foley (the Founder) of Cork City Ballet gives us tickets for the ballet and I can’t tell you how good it makes people feel.

Caitriona Twomey
Caitriona Twomey

"It is a couple of hours of magic for a homeless people. It makes such a difference in the life of that person. They genuinely are thrilled afterwards.

"Obviously we are looking for new clothes and toys but I would really ask that (the public) consider vouchers for such things as a takeaway. I couldn’t begin to tell you what it means. Just simple small stuff like that."

Penny Dinners will give out thousands of food and gift hampers to families across Cork this Christmas. They are always in need of children's jackets, underwear, vests, tights, socks, baby wipes and women's sanitary products.

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Donations can be made to Penny Dinners at their premises or at corkpennydinners.ie

Meanwhile, a Cork hairdresser has today spent the day cutting the hair of homeless adults following on from a special styling event dedicated to assisting homeless children a few weeks ago.

Joseph Byrne of Joseph’s Salon in Glasheen in the city has urged hairdressers all over Ireland to replicate what he does at Christmas and throughout the year. He and his staff cut hair for homeless people and vulnerable women and children impacted by domestic violence.

“For the kids day we had a magician in and some of the mothers were telling me hard and sad stories. We gave one woman a gift and she was just delighted because she thought it was just a day for the children," he said.

"A lot of people we have today are from Penny Dinners or (domestic violence associations) Edel House or Cuain Mhuire. My staff are amazing and Flannery's pub across the road provide food.

It is something that we do all year discretely. A child can be in for a hair cut for a communion or a confirmation and its free and nobody knows. Some of the stories really stand out. It is heart breaking but it is the least I can do.

"This isn’t just for Christmas because Christmas comes and goes.

"They are not coming to a charity event. They are coming in to a salon to be looked after. They are one of us, just in different circumstances.”

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