Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Demand for homeless service rises

A homeless centre is serving up more than 240 meals a day as demand for its service escalates
A homeless centre is serving up more than 240 meals a day as demand for its service escalates

A homeless centre is serving up more than 240 meals a day as demand for its service escalates.

Merchants Quay Ireland, which supports homeless people and drug addicts, called on the Government to protect the most vulnerable and frontline services in the upcoming budget.

As Taoiseach Enda Kenny opened a new centre for the charity, its chief executive Tony Geoghegan warned there has been a huge increase in demand in recent months.

"In October this year, we served 7,500 meals," he said.

"That's compared with the same period last year when we served 5,500 meals.

"We are counting the social cost of the recession everyday as numbers coming to our new centre soar. On Sundays alone we are seeing over 250 people come through our door at lunchtime.

"For many, the meals we provide are the only decent thing they will eat that day and their only social contact."

The charity provides crisis intervention, health promotion, rehabilitation and support and educational programmes, as well as showers and clean clothes.

It has recorded a 10% increase in its needle exchange programme in the last 12 months, with 2,000 drug addicts swapping their dirty needles for clean ones in October.

The Taoiseach earlier formally opened its new bigger Riverbank Homeless Centre on Merchants Quay, which cost 1.4 million euro. But Mr Geoghegan revealed his deepest concern is for the forthcoming budget, as the charity needs 6.5 million euro a year to run.

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