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The vouchers being handed out at the Capuchin Day Centre this morning. Carl Kinsella/
surging demand

3,000 people queue to receive Christmas food vouchers at Capuchin Day Centre

Those working at the centre told The Journal that there is more demand for the service now than ever.

AROUND 3,000 PEOPLE queued up outside the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin this morning to receive vouchers to buy food that will get them through the Christmas period. 

A long queue of people had formed down Bow Street ahead of the centre opening at 8am this morning.

Those gathered were men and women of all ages, from very elderly people to mothers with prams and young children.

Founded by Brother Kevin Crowley, who retired in August, and run by the Capuchin Friars, the centre has been operating in the north inner city for over 50 years.

It provides breakfast and lunch to people in need throughout the year, as well as washing facilities and essential items such as baby formula and nappies, which are donated.

The centre previously handed out parcels of food at Christmas every year, but since the Covid-19 pandemic, it has opted to hand out vouchers instead.

Each person queuing this morning had also lined up last week in order to get a ticket to receive the vouchers – worth €50 – for Dunnes Stores.

Such was the demand for tickets, the centre had to stop handing them out last week for safety reasons, with gardaí there managing crowds. Gardaí were also present this morning to manage traffic and keep the queue moving smoothly.

Those in the queue who spoke to The Journal said that the vouchers will make a big difference for them over the festive season.

John, who travelled in from a north Dublin suburb, was one of those queuing who felt that way. Speaking to The Journal outside the centre, he said: “I have to tell you, it’ll help a lot considering the way life has gone.”

He said that the cost-of-living at the moment is “disgraceful” and that he has noticed the price of everything going up.

“The cost of food is crazy, you know? It’s really gone out of control, but [the Government] don’t seem to be doing that much for the poor.

The rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. That’s the truth.

John said he has been coming to the centre for years. He said the current climate has taken a toll on his mental health. “You’re struggling day by day. You don’t know what tomorrow will throw at you,” he said.

“Only for Father Kevin, we’d be lost after him starting up this place. We’re proud of him, the whole lot of us.”

Another man, Eddie, told The Journal that he has been coming to the Capuchin Day Centre on-and-off for the last 24 years. He works in construction, but for the last three months, he has been homeless and living in a tent.

“Only for this place, I wouldn’t be able to have a wash or a shower,” he said.

“I’m on a council housing list for the last 10 years or the last 15 years and they can’t do nothing for me, so I have to use this for my baths, my showers. I get nothing off the State, I work for a living and I still have to use this. 

“I’m 50 years of age, I worked in this country all my life, paid my taxes for most of my life, and yet I can’t get nothing.”

Eddie said that despite his circumstances, he would still have a good Christmas. “I always have a happy Christmas. I might be homeless, but I’m not down and out. You have to keep a smiling face, don’t you?”

IMG_3486 Supplies in stock for visitors of the Capuchin Day Centre. Carl Kinsella / Carl Kinsella / /

Some of those working at the Capuchin Day Centre said that demand for the service has never been so high.

Alan Bailey has worked at the centre in different capacities since the 1970s. Having volunteered for 30 years, he has been the manager of the facility for the last 11 years. 

“We’re doing 3,000 vouchers this morning. Our normal capacity would be around 1,800 to 2,000,” he told The Journal.

Bailey said he has seen a change in the demographic of people who are visiting the centre each year. 

We have seen a huge change. We don’t ask any questions, we don’t ask you what your circumstances are, but certainly, there is a change. A gradual change.

“A lot of people, they’re not all homeless. A lot of them are depending on this every year. Sure we’re here to pick up that bit of slack. If we can help you, we will help you.”

Gerry Larkin has worked at the centre for 20 years. “When I first started here, we had 50 in for lunch, that was it. Then we started going up to 60 or 70, but now we have them going up to 600 for lunch,” he said.

“It’s very busy. Last week, we made up 1,300 bags and they were gone before nine o’clock. It just goes to show you. Things are changing drastically here.”

‘I’m very thankful’

Another man, Marius, comes to the centre about once a week. Originally from Belgium, he said his circumstances have become more difficult since he had his rent supplement suspended in March.

“It is very, very hard. I’m very, very thankful , but I shouldn’t be here. A lot of people are here who really, really need it, a lot of kids and things like this,” he said.

“It’s €50 voucher. That will get a lot of stuff. And it’s good, you have to buy food, it’s not money.”

Another man, who did not wish to be named, said he preferred to receive a voucher over getting food or money.

“You get food and you’re spending money wisely. If you get money, it goes too quick, but with the vouchers you know what you spend it on. You’re not tempted to spend it foolishly on drink,” he said.

“I don’t drink anyway, it’s a waste of money, but people love to drink to keep them warm and you have to allow for that.”

The 68-year-old man said he had been coming to the centre for years. “Everything is getting very dear now. When you get tokens, never take it for granted. It’s always good food. Always good to have.”

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