LAST November the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) predicted that they would receive about 50,000 calls for help over the winter months.
SVP National President Kieran Stafford now says this will be exceeded in the New Year as the Society has already received almost that number in November and December.
Based on greater than anticipated calls in the lead up to Christmas, the SVP expects no slowdown in the calls for help it will receive in 2019. Calls for help to the Society are now over 130,000 a year – about 11 per cent more than five years ago.
Help with the costs of food, fuel, education and utility bills remain the highest number of requests from families struggling on inadequate incomes.
“We are also increasingly receiving calls for help from people unable to meet growing costs of private rental accommodation and being forced to make choices about the use of scarce income,” Mr Stafford explained.
“The improvement in our economy is very welcome but it has not improved conditions for everyone. Our 11,500 members in every county in Ireland who visit families in their homes see the stark reality behind the statistics for thousands.”
Mr Stafford also said that people who struggle to make ends meet week in and week out are often chastised for their circumstances, particularly if they are homeless or out of work through no fault of their own.
“We are a generous people, the support that SVP and many charities receive shows that. But often those who ask for help are viewed as somehow the cause of their own misfortune. Those who struggle to avoid or escape poverty deserve our support and empathy,” he added.
This year is the 175th anniversary of the foundation of SVP in Ireland. During that time it has provided help and support to those most in need through the Famine in the 19th century, two World Wars, an Uprising, a Civil War and cycles of economic austerity.
In addition to providing direct assistance to those in need, SVP manages 10 hostels providing emergency beds, provides almost 1,000 units of social housing, operates five-holiday homes, seven Resource Centres, four prison visitor centres, 224 charity shops and other social support activities. It also has an active Young SVP programme in schools and third level colleges and universities.
“The support and help we provide, financial, practical and emotional may not be exactly what Blessed Frederick Ozanam had in mind in Paris in 1833 but the spirit that drove him and his friends to serve those in need is exactly the same as that which drives our members and volunteers in Ireland today,” Mr Stafford concluded.