Muslim charity feeding hundreds of rough sleepers at Dublin General Post Office

Muslim charity feeding hundreds of rough sleepers at Dublin General Post Office

EVERY Friday night the Muslim Sisters of Éire, a volunteer-based organisation, distribute hundreds of meals to Dubliners living in destitution.

The charity provides hot food and other essential items from the steps of the General Post Office (GPO).

Upon arrival, homeless people are offered an impressive spread of home-cooked meals, pastries, yoghurts, and water, on tables set up outside the building.

The group have also stocked up with supplies for the pandemic - including masks, hand sanitiser, gloves, and sleeping bags - that are given out in pre-prepared bags to those in need.

As with other volunteer-based charities, the sisters are vulnerable to the coronavirus and have been hit by the recent spike; several team members have caught the illness or were in contact with someone who tested positive.

They were forced to close for two weeks as a result of the staff shortages, but were back on the steps of the GPO last Friday night.

Following this, the charity's chairwoman Lorraine O'Connor confirmed its commitment to delivering hundreds of meals.

"Our women are from all different parts of the world, so the menu includes lots of different cuisines. We used to serve around 200 to 250 meals a week, now we are going up to 450," Ms O'Connor said.

"I have families ringing me up saying they have no food left - there is sheer desperation."

Speaking on the charity's outreach programmes along Dublin's canals, Lorraine said: "People are freezing cold in their tents. One woman told me, 'pray that I will be alive in the morning'." 

A wide variety of people regularly visit the pop-up soup kitchen, including families, single mothers, individual men and women, and numerous children - some of whom queue up twice to bring food home.

On one night, the queue extended so far that it looped around Henry Street, making it difficult to ensure adequate social distancing and Covid-19 safety measures.

While most of those coming for food were homeless, some were staying in hostels.

Speaking to an RTE correspondent, one man said: "This hot deal means everything to me, I am seven years' homeless.

"We would not be here, we would be dead without these services."

There were at least 50 recorded homeless deaths in the capital last year. A recent survey by the Simon Community found that 139 people are currently sleeping rough in the city.