The Irish people must ask themselves tough questions as to how the homelessness issue can be solved, President Michael D Higgins has said.
“As the year comes to an end there must be nobody who is not aware now of the extent, and depth, and consequences of the homelessness problem,” he said.
He was speaking on a visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People on Dublin’s Church St on Tuesday afternoon.
Greeted on arrival by Br Kevin Crowley and Br Seán Donohoe, he spoke to the homeless people and others present at their tables as they had lunch.
Before visiting staff in the kitchens he noted how “it’s 100 years since 1916. But the only way to make 1916’s best promises happen is when we take care of each other.”
It was “so impressive to be able to come and share life as Br Kevin is making possible with the children on Sunday, the young mothers [on] Monday, the parcels that go out and the people who break bread and eat food here together with dignity, that is the stuff of a real republic,” he said.
The volunteers there, some for decades, some for months, “couldn’t be doing something more important”, he said. He wished everyone “a very happy Christmas and all that the light the coming year can bring you.”
The Centre’s Teresa Dolan explained that it had between 250 and 300 people for breakfast each day, Monday to Saturday, with “between 500 and 600 every day for lunch”.
Up to 2,000 food parcels were distributed every Wednesday.
Showers were available daily, except Wednesday morning, with fresh underwear etc.
A nurse was available Monday to Friday, a doctor on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, a dentist and chiropodist on Wednesdays and Fridays and an optician on Saturdays.
Monday was nappies day and, following a recent appeal, they cannot take any more at the moment, she said.
“We’re bulging with the goodness of people,” she said.
Last year the centre spent €3.5 million, €3 million of which came from donations.
The remainder was from statutory sources.
It has 28 full-time staff with a rota of 80 to 200 volunteers.