Just after 6pm on Friday, hundreds of people queued outside the GPO on O’Connell Street desperately waiting for the night’s soup kitchen to begin.
We have 400 meals, it will be gone in an hour,” said Lorraine O’Connor, founder of the Muslim Sisters of Éire.
Some have come for a hot meal, others are in line for free groceries as they struggle to afford supermarket prices. While many are seeking sleeping bags and homeless accommodation.
Tins of canned food, fresh fruit and vegetables, loaves of bread and neatly prepared sandwiches line the table. Hot chicken and burgers are on tonight’s menu.
The HSE-registered soup kitchen run by the Muslim Sisters of Éire receives food from local restaurants, supermarkets and volunteers and has been in operation for seven years.
The first of many seeking a bed for the night is a man in his mid-30s, who is instructed to go to 119 Capel Street, an emergency hostel run by the Simon Community. Ms O’Connordraws the man a map to the hostel with instructions.
Mary (57) has received two bags of groceries and said the kitchen is a “great help”. She is on an allowance of €220 per week and said the “cost of food is too expensive”.
Mary was homeless for two years before moving into a one-bed flat in Summerhill, Dublin 1. She uses the service every week.
It’s very hard coming up to Christmas, I feel like bursting out crying
“I’m very depressed and stressed,” she said about the condition of her housing and the anti-social behaviour in the building.
“I had rats in the flat. I have eight grand-kids and I can’t even take the kids, it kills me. There is an alcoholic living across from me so I come here to pass the time.
“It’s very hard coming up to Christmas, I feel like bursting out crying.”
While Donos (31) is a Ukrainian refugee who said he is sleeping on chairs in the Citywest refugee centre and is seeking a sleeping bag.
He arrived in Ireland three months ago and has spent the last ten days in Citywest.
He said there are “no beds for Ukrainians” at the Citywest complex and about 15 people, including women and children, are sleeping on chairs with no blankets.
He said he is “scared and desperate”, because he cannot get treatment for his severe arthritis.
“I have no GP and no treatment – the employees in this place refuse to settle me in conditions suitable for my disabilities.”
there is currently severe pressure on available accommodation
A spokesperson for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that while most beneficiaries of Temporary Protection are processed through Citywest on the day of arrival and sent on to accommodation that day or early the next day, there are situations where people have had to remain for longer periods of time.
The spokesperson added that there is currently “severe pressure on available accommodation”.
The charity said it has seen a “huge demand” for sleeping bags and spent €2,000 last week on 120 sleeping bags for the homeless. “We can’t get enough of them,” said Ms O’Connor.
The charity’s soup kitchen mostly caters for families in hotel accommodation, single people in hostels, and rough sleepers.
However, Ms O’Connor said the hostels are “notorious, people don’t want to stay in them” due to anti-social behaviour and drug abuse.
The charity is currently running their ‘Bags for Life’ fundraiser to fill 150 bags this Christmas eve with a tent, sleeping bag, blanket, clothing and hygiene kit and are encouraging the public to donate.
Some names have been changed in this article to protect the privacy of individuals.
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