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'We are tired' Muslim Sisters of Éire say their hearts are broken after report slams soup kitchens

"We find that utterly insulting...if there wasn’t a need then we wouldn’t be leaving our homes at night for feeding the endless queues"

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The Muslim Sisters of Éire have been upset by report

The Muslim Sisters of Éire have been upset by report

The Muslim Sisters of Éire have been upset by report

A charity group that runs a soup kitchen outside Dublin’s GPO on O’Connell Street has said “it broke our hearts” to read an independent report that criticised on-street homeless services. 

The Muslim Sisters of Éire said they had “another insanely busy night at the GPO” last night where they provided 400 meals including burgers and sandwiches.

“The service we provide is so badly needed and it broke our hearts to read the so called independent report on the soup runs,” the charity said in a post on Facebook.

“It is very insulting, we were scrutinised in March to be HSE registered, to have all our people trained, to do anything HSE wanted us to do which we did.

“We find that utterly insulting and we are tired and if there wasn’t a need then we wouldn’t be leaving our homes at night for feeding the endless queues.”

The charity was responding to a report commissioned by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive that called for immediate action “to address risks of on-street services”.

As many as 20 unofficial homelessness organisations are operating in Dublin city, with reports of rough sleepers being woken several times during the night to be offered food by various groups.

The groups “do not have the skills or experience to engage with people who are homeless, and there are examples of their interventions undermining the work of mainstream providers and possibly supporting people to remain on or return to the streets”, independent consultant Mary Higgins said in her report.

She found that volunteer groups were potentially supporting people to remain on the streets, yet homeless people were “not the main users of the services”.

Her research, based on-street observation and interviews with homeless services, volunteer groups, officials, businesses, and residents of private emergency accommodation, indicated in some cases food stalls were attracting drug dealing and that tents were being used for prostitution.

“The model of on-street services where people queue for food and eat in full public view on the main streets of the city is inherently undignified and is potentially unsafe,” she added.

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“No attention is paid to nutritional needs or food safety and the crowds that gather at the food stalls are thought to attract drug dealing and other unsavoury activity, putting people who are vulnerable at risk.”

Ms Higgins said interviews with those living in emergency accommodation indicated a “very low usage” of on-street stalls.

“The depiction of the on-street services as helping people who are homeless was contested by most review participants, who believed that they were used by a wide range of people ‘most of them probably not homeless’ and thought to include people ‘who happened to be passing by’, those who are on a break from work,” she said. “Taxi drivers were particularly mentioned.”

There were also concerns raised by these who were interviewed about potential “grooming, proselytising and political recruitment”.

“Other concerns were expressed about the fact that there is no Garda vetting of volunteers, that people who are recovering addicts, with no other qualifications, are volunteers.”

There was, Ms Higgins said, a “failure” by officials to “protect the welfare and safety members of the public and people who are homeless and vulnerable by implementing and enforcing existing regulations in relation to charities, food safety, services for people who are homeless, and obstructive behaviour”.

She said there was a need to “take immediate action to address risks of on-street services”.

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