Cork Capuchin Brother Kevin Crowley: ‘Our main concern for people is dignity’

Cork Capuchin Brother Kevin Crowley talks to Sarah Horgan about the most pressing issues facing Irish society. 
Cork Capuchin Brother Kevin Crowley: ‘Our main concern for people is dignity’

Brother Kevin Crowley and Peg Connolly sing christmas songs in aid of the Capuchin Day Centre for homeless people in Dublin.

A RENOWNED Cork Capuchin Brother is urging the Government to put an end to the cycle of death on our streets as the housing crisis deepens.

Enniskeane native Brother Kevin Crowley, who runs the Capuchin Day Centre in
Dublin, provides a lifeline to those caught in the grip of poverty.

He sees the struggles of people first-hand every day of the week.

This year, he said, they are distributing supplies for up to 300 and 400 infants a day,
including nappies and baby food.

“We have anything up to 300 or 400 a day looking for baby food,” he said.

“Our running costs are €4m. We receive €450,000 from the Government but without the generosity of people, we wouldn’t be able to keep this lifeline operating.”

One of the most important qualities in a volunteer, Brother Crowley said, is respect.

“We don’t ask any questions of the people coming here,” Brother Crowley said.

“It’s difficult enough for people coming in here without having questions put their way. Our main concern for people is dignity.

“Respect is one of the main things that our staff like to emphasise. This creates an atmosphere, mainly for the homeless people. We are always very concerned about them.”

Pope Francis shakes hands with Br Kevin Crowley as he arrives for a visit to the Capuchin Day Centre on Bowe Street in Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland last year. Photo: PA Wire
Pope Francis shakes hands with Br Kevin Crowley as he arrives for a visit to the Capuchin Day Centre on Bowe Street in Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland last year. Photo: PA Wire

One of the most difficult parts of Brother Crowley’s role is witnessing the effects of poverty on children.

“People come here every day for dinner and return to hotels for accommodation,” he said. “For me that’s appalling. To think that in 2019 we have so many children living in hotels is frightening.

“The hardest part that comes with the lack of housing is seeing mothers walking the streets with their little children in prams, not knowing where to go.

“The amount of money being spent on homeless accommodation at the moment is appalling.

“The Government could have hundreds of houses built in the meantime if that money was put into housing.

“Until our Government get their head around just how many homeless we have, nothing is going to be done. My cry to the Government for all those concerned is to not let anyone die on our streets this Christmas.”

Brother Crowley added that substance misuse has also become a significant issue.

“When we started the centre back in 1969, the problem was just drink,” he said. “Back then we had just 50 people coming to us a day. Now the huge problem is drugs and it is only getting worse.”

He opened up about one of his biggest wishes for 2020.

“Many are dying on our streets from overdoses,” he said. “I don’t want to see any of that in 2020.”

Service users of the Capuchin centre can now benefit from a nurse, doctor and chiropodist to maintain their physical health.

“We have a doctor who comes in three times a week as well as a chiropodist. There is also an optician who comes in once a fortnight. Showers and changes of clothes are available every morning for those in need.”

He emphasised the importance of equality adding: “Just last week at 6.30am I met a woman who had been sleeping out all night. She couldn’t get a bed because she wasn’t from Dublin. For me this was a

“No matter what nationality a homeless person is they are still human beings who need to be treated with
respect. At the Capuchin Day Centre everybody is treated equally. The same could be said for our staff which is made up of volunteers from various nationalities and retired religious orders. There is great support in our centre and great love and respect for the people we look after.”

The level of generosity from the public keeps Brother Crowley going through the difficult times.

“My reward is the generosity and kindness of the people who support us. I would like to thank them
sincerely and wish every one of them every blessing for the new year.

“Without their support we wouldn’t be able to continue what we’re doing.

“My biggest wish is that every homeless person gets a home of their own in 2020. Everyone knows the feeling of putting their own key in their own door. We do our best for people. If we could give people homes ourselves we would, but unfortunately housing is not something we’re involved in.”

Brother Crowley is already bracing himself for a busy 2020.

“When we started there were 50 people coming to the centre.

“Now we have between 300 and 400 in the morning and 600 in the afternoon. Between 1,400 and 1,600 food parcels are distributed every Wednesday.

“It’s always busy. That never changes.”

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