WITH CALLS continuing to rise to Saint Vincent de Paul, the society is urging parents across Limerick not to succumb to consumer pressures this Christmas and “avoid moneylenders under any circumstances”.
The society’s regional president, Michael Murphy, was speaking at the launch of their annual Christmas appeal in the city this week.
“Under no circumstances should they resort to borrowing from moneylenders to meet seasonal expenditure. Christmas has become a consumer festival rather than an occasion when families spend time together and when we discover the true meaning of family and friendship,” he said.
“Christmas is but two days, but it’s a long time to pay it back on the loans,” he added.
Mr Murphy said he hoped the practice of turning to moneylenders in hard times was left behind in the 1980s.
“Sadly people are resorting to them again, both illegal and legal and it’s not the answer to their problems,” he said.
The society in the mid-west has seen a 30% increase in demand for its services this year, averaging 460 calls per month.
He said demand is as great in county Limerick as it is in the city, but he believes people in rural areas especially often don’t know where to turn in times of need.
“In rural areas it can be a bit more difficult to find the information and people can be a bit slower to come forward, due to embarrassment. We would say to them there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We are here to help,” he said.
Those seeking assistance from SVP – dubbed the ‘new poor’ – were previously those in a position to donate to the society, but they too now find themselves in need.
One quarter of all requests now received are from people contacting the society for the first time, he said. “How many more people are out there who are reluctant or too embarrassed to make that call?” he asked.
This year over 1,500 food hampers will be delivered to deserving families in the Limerick area, and Mr Murphy said handing out the toy hampers was “the happiest day we had last year”.
The most pressing concern amongst people contacting the society has been the rise in costs of utility bills, some as high as €2,000. He urged people to contact the society before they are cut off by the supplier, as this can pose an additional and “needless cost”.
“I have seen cases where children have had no food in the morning going to school, and students have had to drop out of college because their parents have been unable to fund their studies,” he added.
Their drop-in centre on Hartstonge Street for the homeless and others who have fallen on hard times has also seen an increase in visitors, averaging 60-80 people per day, six days a week. He urged anyone with difficulties to come forward, saying they will be treated with empathy, and in a confidential, non-judgmental manner.
Anyone wishing to donate toys to the appeal can do so at any SuperValu store or any SVP offices in Limerick and Ennis.
Churchgate collections will be held at all churches in the city this weekend, and in the county next weekend.
“We are appealing to people to be as generous to us as they have been in the past. This year we can meet the demand, with some reserves built up, but going forward, if we don’t get the continued support we’d have to look at our situation.”
Volunteers are also being sought.