A homeless charity which runs a pop-up cafe in the city centre is warning that the homeless crisis is getting worse.
Recently, The Homeless Street Cafe reported children as young as newborns being brought out at night to their food queues.
In one particular post, the charity shared a photo of five-year-old ‘Sam’, who was sitting on a sheet of cardboard eating dinner on a cold, wet night.
The post went viral and caused national outrage.
Dublin Gazette spoke with one of the founding members of The Homeless Street Cafe, Denise Carroll (39), who said they shared that photo in a moment of complete frustration of the crisis.
She said: “I think this photo came about at a moment of exasperation and totally overwhelming circumstances.
“For us, we just couldn’t believe that it was acceptable that this little boy had to come to us for his dinner – that his only comfort to try to eat his evening meal was to sit on the side of a street on a piece of cardboard.
“This little boy is looked after fantastically by his mother, in her circumstance, but this is how she was forced to feed her child.
“Many people aren’t aware that a lot of emergency accommodation has no cooking facilities, and strictly forbids cooking in bedrooms.”
Mum-of-three Denise, who is a nurse, said it was when she read a post of Facebook four years ago from a soup kitchen looking for help that she got involved in helping the homeless.
“We had lots of food in our house, so I answered the appeal, made sandwiches and brought them to town.
“I was so saddened to see the homeless gather that night looking for food and essentials. I suppose it was an image burned in my mind, and I felt compelled to begin volunteering with the homeless.
“A year later, The Homeless Street Cafe was born when we started our own group to help the homeless every Tuesday night.”
Denise and the team set up the pop-up cafe, “which seems a more dignified description than soup kitchen,” she says, and they are out every Tuesday night at Grafton Street, outside Dunnes Stores and the Disney store.
Denise drives in a van, and the homeless service users help to unload tables, food, drinks, and essentials.
There are approximately 40 volunteers who give their time to help the initiative, and businesses such as Village Vets and Ratoath Barbers donate their services.
When the pop-up cafe started out, they served about 70 people each night; now, that number has grown to more than 300 people.
Denise said the homeless crisis is getting worse and believes the Government needs to step up.
She said: “There is no question the homeless crisis is getting worse. We really need a massive intervention before we have even more deaths on the street.
“If I had to send this government a message, it would be that, at present, the plan to solve homelessness is acutely failing.
“No more spin on figures or promises – we have more than 10,000 people homeless, and children eating on the streets.
“Put your hands up and admit it’s not working and re-evaluate. Look to countries which have successfully solved their homeless problem.
“Stop paying hotels etc for short-term answers – one hotel alone earned €5 million from homelessness last year. How many peoples’ lives could have been changed with that [funding] forever?
“A very wise person told me that to solve a problem, you must first understand it, and I don’t feel our current leaders have any true understanding of this crisis,” said Denise.
The Homeless Street Cafe are holding a protest on December 5 at noon, gathering at the Garden of Remembrance in the city centre, and are encouraging people to join them.
To find out more about the incredible work they do, see their Facebook page for The Homeless Street Cafe.