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SVP challenges Record 160,000 calls for help to St Vincent de Paul as families struggle in pandemic

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St Vincent de Paul society president, Rose McGowan. Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

St Vincent de Paul society president, Rose McGowan. Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

St Vincent de Paul society president, Rose McGowan. Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

A record 160,000 calls for help have been made to the Saint Vincent de Paul society this year.

While the charity prides itself on its home visits to those in need, these have been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions and volunteers have had to use phone calls instead.

The new president of the society, volunteer and Castleknock resident Rose McGowan, said this poses challenges in identifying further issues within homes.

“We’re restricted in that we’re not visiting homes which is our main work. We’re either seeing if we can deliver food or post vouchers. But we’re not getting to chat to that family, to see if there is anything else.

“Usually when you go to a home, you go in and maybe the first two weeks give them vouchers towards food or bills. But it's only when you get to know them that you can see a myriad of problems,” she said.

Ms McGowan said that Christmas for many families is “twice as expensive” this year, as costs have been compounded by the loss of jobs and income.

Some parents are also facing huge pressure if their children have been at home – costing more for food, heat and electricity.

“They’re really stressed,” she said. “I had one woman last week, she said ‘I’m crying myself to sleep with the stress of it all’. When we were in those homes, at least she could cry with us. I was on the phone with her for 10 minutes and that’s all I could give her.

“We can’t look at all her needs on the telephone, whether it’s back-to-school stuff or food or bills,” she explained.

Volunteers have also noticed that, since the start of the pandemic, there are now more people asking for help, some of whom have never sought the help of the St Vincent de Paul before. Students have been a part of that cohort.

“We’ve seen families of children where there’s two or three trying to do remote learning off a single phone.

“We were faced with students who are trying to study remotely – and needed laptops as they normally would use laptops in college. There’s no wifi in some houses, that’s €30 a month,” explained Ms McGowan.

The society is holding its annual Christmas appeal online this year, where donors can give virtual gifts, donate non-perishable food items to Eurospar shops and buy an empty toy box for €5 in a local SVP shop.


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