By Cian Molloy - 27 August, 2019
Yesterday, on the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for the Homeless, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin called in to share a “full Irish breakfast” with Brothers Kevin Crowley and Sean Donohue, the centre’s volunteers and the hundreds of people who use it every day.
The Archbishop led a short prayer service; helped serve plates of sausage, rashers, eggs, pudding and toast; and then sat down to enjoy his own breakfast and a nice mug of tea.
Every day between 250 and 300 homeless people call into the centre on Bow Street for breakfast, which is served between 7 a.m. and 11.30 a.m., but the centre is especially busy on Wednesday mornings when staff make up food parcels for about 1400 people who need help with their grocery supplies. An additional 350 food parcels supplied by the Capuchin friary in Kilkenny are also distributed to the needy.
The centre closes for a brief period at 11.30 a.m. to give staff time to prepare for the busiest part of their day, when the centre provides a full dinner for between 500 and 600 people.
Bro Kevin Crowley, the centre’s founder, says it would not be able to function without the support and donations of ordinary people.
“While the main purpose of the centre is food maintenance, we have constantly endeavoured to improve our response and help people who have difficulty in accessing mainstream services,” said Bro Kevin.
“We have a full-time nursing staff, a dedicated family social worker and in conjunction with the Safetynet Primary Medical Care Service, four GP medical clinics each week. Other professionals offer their services on a ‘pro bono’ basis; these include two dental and two chiropody clinics each week, an optical screening clinic and ‘Haircuts 4 the Homeless’.”
Not all the monies provided by donors go towards providing food, Bro Kevin said. “Thanks to your goodness, a sizable portion of our expenditure is on footwear, socks, underwear, t-shirts, emergency rain wear, tents and sleeping bags, personal hygiene products, hospital packs, hats, scarves, emergency transport costs, assistance for bereaved families, etc.
“For Capuchins the welfare of families is a priority and in our centre we have a designated ‘Family Area’ where families can enjoy a nutritious meal in safety. Since the housing crisis of 2013, we had to upgrade the service by providing day-to-day essentials for children and babies. Housing scarcity and high rents means that people are living in hotels and B&Bs totally unsuited to family needs. The increase in child poverty is very evident here in the centre. Our figures rose from 4389 in 2011 to 11,300 in 2018 – a staggering increase of 6911 or 157.5 per cent. Each day we meet the tragic human casualties of failed government policies.”