SAINT Vincent de Paul spent up to €1m in Limerick this year, but it is increasingly reporting a financial deficit as it has been inundated with requests for assistance.
Since September alone, the charitable organisation at Hartstonge Street in the city has seen 1,500 requests for assistance a month, and this number is expected to rise again closer to Christmas.
“Christmas is a difficult time for families for a lot of reasons, and for some there is the added pressure to live up to the ideal Christmas that we all see on our TV screens, which is not the reality for a lot of people unfortunately,” said Eileen Hoffler, an administrator with SVP in Limerick. She said they have witnessed a “huge increase” in people contacting them, and one in four people are contacting them for the first time. Ms Hoffler advised those who are struggling to come and see them as soon as possible, and not to wait for their bills to mount up, or for the situation to become completely unsustainable.
While the society hears many heart-breaking stories all year round, she said Christmas time is the “nearest you can get to being an intern for Santa Claus”, as they are set to deliver some 2,000 hampers locally again this year.
“You really do see the best side of human nature, from corporate companies who walk in with a big cheque or an elderly lady who wants to give something small from her pension,” she explained.
Michael Murphy, regional president of SVP, urged the public who wish to donate toys or foodstuffs for hampers before December 15 for delivery to families, as he said there’s nothing worse than seeing gifts being dropped off at their doorstep on Christmas eve and knowing they cannot deliver them on time.
SVP is witnessing a huge demand for help on several fronts - this year they spent over €586,000 assisting with energy bills and meeting general household expenses in Limerick city and county, representing an increase of 16% on last year.
The drop-in centre alone in Limerick city is catering for up 90 people a day - twice the number of people they saw two years ago, and it has recently opened drop-in centres in Newcastle West, west Limerick and Roscrea, county Tipperary.
Over 70 volunteers made over 75,000 calls to hard pressed families during the year in an effort to ensure that these families were able to provide the basic heat, food and light to their families, while they struggled with rent and mortgage repayments. In the 2013/14 academic year the society spent over €150,000 on education at all levels from pre-school to third level assisting students and their families.
SVP Mid-West, which includes Limerick, suffered a deficit of €381,845 for 2013, “the first time we had a shortfall of that magnitude”, said Barry Tobin, regional vice president.
- See the weekend Leader for more on their appeal