by Jennifer Hough

MORE than 700 people queued outside a Dublin friary yesterday for free food parcels — double the numbers the centre normally feeds.

From early morning, crowds began to gather, afraid they might miss out on the basic food packs, which contain staples such as bread, tea, sugar, and tinned food.

Brother Kevin Crowley, who runs the day centre of the Capuchin Friary on Church Street, Dublin 7, said he was deeply saddened that so many people were presenting for free food and that yesterday was the first time they had ever run out of supplies.

He said it is not just homeless people, but people who have lost their jobs and are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

He said the crowds were made up of different age groups and nationalities, but there were now a lot more young people and families living in difficult circumstances.

“I was talking to one young man who felt terrible that he had to come here for food, but he said he was hungry and had no choice.” He said the numbers coming to the centre for meals had also greatly increased.

“We might normally have 250 people for dinner, yesterday we had 430,” he said. All food at the centre is free.

Br Crowley said running costs are e1 million annually, e450,000 of which was a Government grant.

“We raise the rest ourselves and rely on the generosity of people.”

Br Crowley also noted the number of foreign nationals in need of aid. “They have no family supports to rely on,” he said.

Alice Leahy, founder of Trust, a charity for homeless people, said it was a “very fearful time” and that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of foreign people using the charity’s services.

She said more than 50% of the people it sees are not Irish. She urged foreign embassies to play a role, and contribute something to help people from their countries. She said a Lithuanian man was recently buried in Trust’s plot in Glasnevin cemetery and the only people at the funeral were the social worker, the charity workers and the priest. “You would have thought he could have been repatriated,” she said. “That is something which would have happened 30 years ago.”

Another worry, Ms Leahy said, was for people who were becoming suddenly homeless.

“Those who have lived on streets for many years somehow learn to cope, but if someone loses their job and finds themselves homeless it is a shock and very difficult for them to cope. There will be a big psychological effect that is not addressed.”