‘At breaking point’: Cork charity witnessing dramatic increase in people reaching out for help 

Penny Dinners volunteer Catriona Twomey described how the number of people dropping in for a meal on a daily basis increased from around 280-320 to 500 people. 
‘At breaking point’: Cork charity witnessing dramatic increase in people reaching out for help 

Ms Twomey told The Echo the people of Cork are at "breaking point" and said something needs to be done about the rising cost of living. Picture Dan Linehan

A Cork charity has witnessed a "dramatic" increase in people reaching out for help amid the growing cost of living crisis. 

Penny Dinners volunteer Catriona Twomey described how the number of people dropping in for a meal on a daily basis increased from around 280-320 to 500 people. 

Ms Twomey told The Echo the people of Cork are at "breaking point" and said something needs to be done about the rising cost of living.

“We have noticed an increase since Christmas and it is growing all the time. New faces every day.” 

Ms Twomey said there is no let up from the demand and things are “manic” at the charity.

'The queues are constant'

“We used to have queues outside on a very rare occasion, but now the queues are constant. There are queues all the time.” 

The Cork charity stalwart said there is a lot of work for the volunteers to get through and the increased demand is putting pressure on everyone as individuals.

“We can’t leave anyone hungry,” she said, “we have increased the number of dinners we make daily.” 

Ms Twomey said that she knows of employed people struggling to make ends meet visiting the charity for their midday meal.

“There is one chap, he gets the bus into work and then walks home, every day, through wind and rain, because he is trying to cut costs.” 

Ms Twomey said Penny Dinners is still giving people hampers as well, but said some people ask for food in a plastic bag, to hide the fact they are in need of a handout.

“Some people don’t want others to see and ask for food in a plastic bag, we have it down to a fine art.” 

Cost of living 'frightening' people 

Catriona said the rising cost of living is “frightening the daylights out of everyone.” 

“Everyone is under pressure, ordinary people are being impacted. Something has got to give.” 

The Penny Dinners coordinator called on the Government to assist people with the rising cost of living.

“People are at breaking point, what are they going to do? Wait until everyone breaks?” 

Issue raised in Dáíl

Cork Solidarity TD Mick Barry raised the rising cost of fuel in the Dáil on Tuesday asking for measures to be taken to relieve pressure on the public.

The Cork North Central deputy called for the ESB to be given an instruction to operate on a break-even basis this year and to cancel the price hikes.

Deputy Barry said: "I don't think that people are very impressed with the Taoiseach and other Government Ministers telling them to spend less time in the shower when the Government themselves are planning an energy tax increase."

Poverty 'more acute' than ever 

Speaking to The Echo, St Vincent de Paul South West regional co-ordinator Gerry Garvey said the level of poverty currently being witnessed s probably more acute now that it ever was due to the rise in the cost of living.

“There is always a certain element of poverty in society. It is probably more acute now that it ever was. Everyone is being impacted by the utilities increase."

Yesterday, the Tánaiste warned that the rise in inflation and the cost-of-living crisis will impact the country for years to come.

Leo Varadkar said the cost of living pressures is an international crisis that cannot be solely blamed on the war in Ukraine.

Mr Varadkar said that, while the Government can respond to the price rises, it cannot bring in new measures to offset a particular price increase every few weeks.

Mr Varadkar said the increase in cost of living and inflation, which is forecast to rise to 8.5% in the coming months, is not going to be temporary.

"There are lots of reasons as to why we're seeing inflation roar across the world at the moment and lots of reasons why we're seeing the cost of living rise.

"That's to do with monetary policy, it has to do with the pandemic and supply chains, it is to do with the war in Ukraine as well.

"While we do need to respond to the symptoms, which is price rises, that's not the solution.

"I don't think we can come back every few weeks, with a new measure to offset a particular price increase.

"We need to see this for what it is, which is an international crisis, an increase in inflation that's going to be with us for years more so than months."

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