THERE has been a dramatic rise in the number of people seeking food and shelter at St Vincent De Paul this year, with 5,000 people on their books.
At the launch of the charity’s annual winter appeal, Michael Murphy, the society’s regional president said that more than 80 people rely on the charity for daily support.
And with the escalating economic downturn, the charity has spent more than €1.5m on its services in Limerick.
This weekend, the charity will be holding church gate collections across the city this weekend, and then in the county the following weekend, December 11 and 12.
The need for fresh funding – and more volunteers – has become even more evident this year, after the society converted the stables to the back of its Ozanam House offices to a drop-in centre providing food, warmth and comfort to hundreds of homeless people this year on a six-day-a-week basis.
Due to the number of people who have lost their jobs in Limerick across the last two years, Mr Murphy says the profile of those seeking support from the charity – which provides educational, moral, emotional and practical support out of its centre in Hartstonge Street – has changed dramatically.
Some of the people now seeking help are former professionals, who have fallen on hard times.
“Some people who once gave money to us at church gate collections would now be seeking help from us. It takes these people longer to find the courage to approach us, because they never expected to have to be doing this. They would also not be fully aware of how the social services system works, and the bureaucracy which surrounds it,” he said.
This is why he stressed that the charity places a huge emphasis on dignity.
“We will continue to treat people with the openness, dignity and the non-judgemental attitude we always have done,” he said.
The charity is desperately seeking volunteers who have an interest in social policy, and those with specific skills in some of the areas where they provide support. This includes carpentry, plumbing and painting.
Mr Murphy stressed that any commitment would be minimal - around three hours on one night per week.
St Vincent De Paul is appealing to businesses and the general public to support the Christmas appeal. Donations can be made in person or by post to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Ozanam House, Hartstonge Street, Limerick. You can also go online to donate at www.svp.ie, or through any AIB branch to account 77773059, sort code 93-52-47.
*A full version of this story appeared in the Limerick Leader.