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Helping hand Dublin's Capuchin Centre feeding up to 900 homeless people daily amid pandemic

Capuchin Day Centre have gone from feeding 500-600 per day pre-Covid to feeding 800-900 per day during the pandemic.

Dublin's busiest food donation centre has increased its output by 30pc during the coronavirus pandemic.

Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People have gone from feeding 500-600 per day pre-Covid, to feeding 800-900 per day since March.

Alan Bailey (69), an ex-garda sergeant heading up murder and missing persons investigations, runs the Bow Street based centre.

He has been volunteering at the centre since 1972 and became full-time after he retired from An Garda Siochana.

"We're here to help all the poor, the marginalised and the homeless," Alan says.

"We have a huge diaspora from homeless to marginalised to people with addiction problems, maybe mental (health) problems, and people who are lonely and need a bit of company.

"It's a lovely mixture, when we are open, and can allow the public in. You can see it in the place and people respect here and they respect us and we respect them.

"We don't ask any questions. We don't want to know your name, or anything like that. You're welcome for whatever you want here,' he added.

Each of the hundreds of bags being distributed contains a lunch consisting of a piece of fruit, yogurt, knife and fork, condiments, and they'll also be given a hot dinner in a container.

"They can either take it home, if they have a home, or they can go into the local church to eat it. A lot of people who eat here today will have nothing until they come back here tomorrow, so we're very conscious of that.

"We're totally non-judgemental, we don't care who you are or what you are or where you come from, what your background is. You're welcome here," he added.

Prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, they were feeding in the region of 500-600 people a day.

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Since coronavirus, they've had to close the open canteen and they are take-away only. Dinners, for the centre, have increased by somewhere between 800 and 900 daily.

Alan continues: "We've never had to close. We've kept open through everything, fire and petulance as they say.

"When we had to go into lockdown, we split our staff into two halves. I work one half of the week and someone else works the other half of the week - just to keep Covid out of the centre."

There are now a total of 28 staff working at The Capuchin Day Centre.

"We're now takeaway only and the numbers have shot up huge again.

"The running costs are in the region of €4 million each year. Gratuity from government is in the region of €400,000. On a yearly basis there is a shortfall of some €3 and a half million.

"But I have to say, people have been very, very good to us. We'll never appeal for money, what we want to do is thank the people who are helping us, because without them we wouldn't be able to continue to provide this service."

The centre has an arrangement with the local St Mary of the Angels church, situated on Church Street.

"The priest has allowed us to let people in to eat their meals in the comfort of the church. We have contract cleaners full-time in the church to keep it clean and cut down the risk of contamination in there,' Alan adds.

"It's a great success and people have been very respectful and treating the church with respect, which is very important for us. We'll keep the service going. We hope to keep it going throughout the pandemic.

"We stayed open through the night for the last big storm we had here and we had people sleeping here, and we were hoping to never have to see those bad days again. There's a big problem with homeless but we're all doing our best to help them."

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