OPINION: Queuing on the street for food ‘is just not ideal’

Ann Cronin, Mid West Simon

Reporter:

Ann Cronin, Mid West Simon

OPINION: Queuing on the street for food ‘is just not ideal’

The Mid West Simon Community currently operates monthly food banks in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary 'but the social grocery would be a preferred way for those in need to access food’

The Mid West Simon Community will continue to operate services in 2021 despite challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisation’s chief executive officer (CEO) Jackie Bonfield said that the organisation will continue building on their current services which aim to alleviate homelessness and food poverty.

In early 2021 the organisation aims to establish a housing project for older individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

“We have four one-bed and one two-bed apartments coming on stream, hopefully by April of this year.

“That would be a very exciting project that would be specifically for people who have had the trauma of homelessness, aged over 45 or 50 and just need somewhere safe and secure to live now,” Ms Bonfield said.

The organisation also aims to open a social grocery in Limerick city this year, an initiative which will allow people facing food poverty to purchase food at heavily subsidised prices.

The Mid West Simon Community currently operates monthly food banks in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary but Ms Bonfield said the social grocery would be a preferred way for those in need to access food.

“We need to provide people with a more dignified way that they can access food support than having to queue to receive food in a black bag and we’re very conscious of that, both for the people receiving the food and for the people in the community who have to witness that happening once a month.

“Having people queuing on the street, it’s just not the ideal situation. So, we’re going to work very hard in 2021 so hopefully this time next year, we will actually be opening the social grocery, or it will be open already,” she said.

The organisation faced a number of challenges last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms Bonfield said Mid West Simon staff faced difficulties in supporting clients who were unable to access mental health or addiction services due to national restrictions in place.

“We’re trying to engage with clients through technologies like Zoom and FaceTime and keeping contact through phone.

“It makes it very difficult because you can’t get a real sense of where somebody is over a phone call, so it was very challenging for staff,” Ms Bonfield said.

The organisation faced a number of challenges in relation to fundraising in 2020, which Ms Bonfield said will continue into the new year.

“We weren’t able to run any of our fundraising events and are not expecting to be able to run those for at least the start of 2021, so we are going to face challenges around some of our services, especially the foodbank because that receives no state funding at all,” Ms Bonfield said.

The Mid West Simon Community provide services for men, women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness across Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary.