Number served ‘Knights’ Christmas meals doubles

Organisers of RDS event for homeless provided dinner to 2,400 people last Christmas

A file photograph of volunteers preparing food and goody bags for distribution, at the annual Christmas Dinner organised by the Knights of  Columbanus. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

A file photograph of volunteers preparing food and goody bags for distribution, at the annual Christmas Dinner organised by the Knights of Columbanus. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

 

The number of meals served by organisers of the Christmas day dinner for the homeless at the RDS in Dublin has doubled in three years.

Adrian King, chairman of the Knights of Columbanus Christmas Day dinner committee, said that when he became chair four years ago about 1,200 dinners were served but the number increased last year to 2,400.

This year is the 90th anniversary of the first Christmas day dinner for the homeless organised by the Catholic organisation. The event costs some €30,000 in addition to the significant donations of food and other services.

Mr King said 2,500 dinners would be prepared this year including 500 to be served at the RDS and the remainder to be distributed to families in need through the St Vincent de Paul Society, Alone, Simon, Age Action, Dublin City Council, Depaul Ireland and other groups.

The St Vincent de Paul Society will distribute about 60 per cent of the meals.

Dinner will be served from 11 am including the traditional turkey dinner, Christmas pudding, tea, coffee and refreshments and entertainment will be provided during and after the meal.

As part of the event transport will be provided to the RDS from the city centre from 9.30am on a rolling basis with pick-ups at the Four Courts, Mansion House and Clery’s on O’Connell Street.

Some 330 volunteers , who registered in September and October with christmasdaydinner.com and have undergone a training day, will help with the preparation of the dinners and the assembly of goody bags to go with each meal. These contain toiletries, sandwiches, chocolates and other items. Mr King said “we don’t encourage people to turn up on the day to volunteer”

Meanwhile Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Minister of State Paudie Coffey on Tuesday said that 271 additional emergency beds had been put in place. This was 11 more than originally promised in a 20-point action plan to tackle short-term homelessness. The plan was published after a housing forum was established in the wake of the death of Jonathon Corrie, whose body was discovered earlier this month on steps near Leinster House.

A new night cafe for homeless people who do not wish to be in emergency accommodation has been in place since mid-December and a transport service to bring those sleeping rough to emergency accommodation is operational, Mr Kelly said.

He added that “this is some comfort to people sleeping rough on our streets and I’m determined to build on it and work toward our goal in ending long-term involuntary homelessness”.

The Simon Communities of Ireland have welcomed the provision of the emergency accommodation and the meeting of targets, but expressed concern about longer-term solutions.

Spokeswoman Niamh Randall asked what happened in March when the “cold months” plan ended. A housing-led or housing first approach was needed so that at the end of winter, those in emergency accommodation would not have to return to the streets.

She highlighted the 11 per cent increase in private rental prices and a 34 per cent drop in the supply of housing for rent. Ms Randall said there were currently 2,500 people trapped in emergency accommodation including 800 children.