Cork families fighting poverty are being 'driven to moneylenders'

Caitríona Twomey emphasised the severe toll the cost-of-living crisis is taking on society.
Cork families fighting poverty are being 'driven to moneylenders'

Penny Dinners is receiving more messages of gratitude than ever before. Picture Dan Linehan

A NUMBER of families are desperately turning to more than one moneylender at a time in a bid to escape poverty.

Caitríona Twomey, who runs the soup kitchen charity Cork Penny Dinners on Little Hanover Street, said a woman recently presented to the charity for food supplies, explaining that it was the only option left to pay back two moneylenders. Despite being in employment, the woman estimated she will have to go three or four weeks without buying food supplies in order to be back on an even financial keel.

Ms Twomey said she has taken the service user’s grocery list to ensure she and her children have everything they need in the upcoming weeks. The anti-poverty advocate said she feels that people are not “falling into a trap” but instead are being driven into it.

Referring to the service user, she said: “The commuting and cost of living was putting a significant strain on her. She is now paying back two moneylenders at a time and the worry was that she might not be able to afford Christmas.

“She asked if we could help her for three or four weeks so she can save on the cost of food.

“However, we have told her that if it takes longer, that’s OK, too.”

“We are willing to help her for as long as it takes,” said Ms Twomey.

She emphasised the severe toll the cost-of-living crisis is taking on society. “People sometimes feel like they need to explain and they don’t. We are happy to be there for someone if they find themselves in trouble,” said Ms Twomey. “It’s been particularly difficult for people lately, given the cost-of-living crisis.

“More people are turning to moneylenders who wouldn’t have necessarily done so before. The decision is made out of desperation. It’s very difficult to know what it’s like until you find yourself in a situation where you have completely run out of options. There is a lot of talk about the new poor, but now we have a new cohort again, referred to as ‘the vulnerable poor’. The truth is that people who are poor are now also very vulnerable. ”

Ms Twomey said parents are opting to visit the centre while their children are at school. “A parent told us she would have come at the weekend, but the children were there and she wanted to protect them from what was happening. This is why she waited until they were in school to make the trip to Penny Dinners.“

Being at the mercy of moneylenders can result in severe anxiety, she said. “It’s not written in stone, but, at the same time, people know that you won’t get away with not paying a moneylender back.”

Penny Dinners is receiving more messages of gratitude than ever before. “Some of the people we deliver to are telling us that they are not used to having so much food in the house. The messages they send us are full of gratitude,” said Ms Twomey.

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