THE Society of St Vincent de Paul says more people in Cork will need their help in the weeks ahead as the coronavirus outbreak deepens.
SVP is continuing to operate a service during the outbreak but has had to halt all home visits and face-to-face contacts.
A skeleton of essential staff are working behind closed doors at its regional centre in Cork, with many others working remotely on phone and email.
“We are currently giving as much support as we can to people. There is a lot of worry and the biggest factor is fear of the unknown,” said Gerry Garvey, SVP’s south-west regional co-ordinator.
“We expect to be dealing with a lot of people we wouldn’t have been dealing with before who have come into difficulty, people who have lost their jobs.”
It comes as figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection show it had received over 50,000 claims from people who have been laid-off.
Pubs, restaurants, retail outlets, and cafes are among the many businesses which have shut their doors until further notice.
SVP’s 2,500 volunteers in Cork already support thousands of people in the city and county, in some cases providing regular help with food, while in other cases they may help out with occasional needs. These teams would regularly bring food hampers to people’s homes.
“The food hampers are still operating but where before we would have brought these inside and put them on the table, we are leaving them on the doorstep, ringing the bell, standing back a safe distance, and waiting for it to be picked up. It’s the only safe way to continue the service,” he said.
Mr Garvey said many of the volunteers themselves are older and thus vulnerable. For this reason, SVP has closed its shops in Cork and cannot accept any donations at them or at its regional centre. It will continue to service its more than 100 clothes bins in Cork for now.
The SVP regional director said while the organisation would be facing many challenges in the weeks ahead, as long as postal and telecoms services are in place, it can continue to do its work.
“We have plenty of supplies in the conferences and we are not planning to stop the service. We can divert phones, we can post vouchers for food. We are working to support people and will continue to do so,” he said.
Mr Garvey encouraged anyone in difficulty to get in touch. “We will have people who were donors themselves to the charity, and who have lost their jobs and find themselves in difficulty. After a month or two, things may be more difficult.”