A soup kitchen that provides hot meals to the homeless and needy in Cork city plans to put pods for outdoor dining in place for Christmas day in order to create a "Miracle on Little Hanover Street."
Caitriona Twomey, whose service Penny Dinners hands out over 2,000 meals a week to the vulnerable in the city, says that the homeless are in need of a massive boost following a traumatic year.
"You have heard of Miracle on 54th Street we are looking for a Miracle on Little Hanover Street for Christmas day. We want pods in place for Christmas day.
"It makes sense to shut the street, put pods down there with a few heaters to keep warm so they can eat their Christmas dinner. We don't want people to be outside on Christmas day.
“Isn’t it ironic that we celebrate Christmas with Jesus being born in a stable and here we are in 2020 organising an outdoors meal for the homeless?"
Caitriona is very conscious of the Covid-19 restrictions and every effort will be made to make the festive meal safe.
The charity normally feeds in the region of 200 people on Christmas day and as usual the River Lee Hotel will provide meals with all the trimmings.
Ms Twomey is calling on businesses who provide pods and heaters to get in touch to make her dream a reality.
"We do need support. We don't have the pods. We don't have the heaters. I am sure there are people out there who are experts at doing all this and can help us. We have to give people a bit of love and joy to keep them going.
"People need joy and hope all the time not just at Christmas. We need to rescue Christmas day. We are pressing to have the meal outside Penny Dinners in Little Hanover Street.”
The last sit-down meal at Penny Dinners took place pre the lockdown last March. The service is not only about providing a meal. It gives the vulnerable and needy a warm comfortable place to eat and company to fill their often dark days on the street.
Caitriona admits to feeling heartbroken at seeing the very obvious decline in the homeless community since the pandemic changed the way we live our lives.
"With the lockdown people have to walk around an empty city all day long and fall asleep in the freezing cold as well.
"We have to keep positive and things rolling out because if they (service users) see us worried or fearful they become worried and fearful. We can see if people aren't doing well.
"You would nearly know by looking at them who is next to die. It is more visible now because when we had people inside you would be pottering around the place and busy whereas now you are only seeing them at the door.
"You are seeing things in a different light. You can see the deterioration. People who have always maintained an upbeat attitude and accepted their lot that is absolutely gone.
"People often don't see the point of living. There is a lot of despair."
Penny Dinners has a particular need for new sleeping bags and pop up tents. For information on how to donate go to corkpennydinners.ie.