Calls for help to the St Vincent de Paul Society in the city continue to be up by 30 per cent in the New Year, a situation which its administrator describes as “unusual”.
Colm Noonan says there has been no “let-up” in appeals for assistance since Christmas when the charity experienced this rise initially. Some 50 per cent of requests are from first time callers.
“We’ve been very, very busy. There has been no let-up. We are at the same level now as we were before Christmas,” he explains.
He says the increase may be partly attributable to the recent flooding and the effects of the recession beginning to bite further. More people are losing their jobs and many of those who were made redundant earlier on have used up their savings and redundancy money to make ends meet. Many are in arrears with their mortgage.
“There is no question, things are getting really tough for a lot of people. This year is going to be the year when retail will get a hammering, I fear, and more people will lose their jobs. This reminds me of the 1980s, there is a sense of deja vu. In some ways it is worse now because there is not the facility for mass emigration like there was before. This is a different type of recession, it knows no bounds. 2009 was a very difficult year, it ended very badly for many people.”
The problem seems to be worse in the city, according to Mr Noonan, who attributed this to the “sheer volume” of people living there.
“People are hurting, young people with small children, especially. People on low incomes are really hit. There is an awful lot of hardship out there and I am extremely concerned that there is more to come. It is so unfair that these are the people who benefited least from the Celtic Tiger and now they are most affected.”
He outlines the charity is helping some people it reached out to during the recession of the 1980s.
Lone parents are the charity’s main clients. “They are a group we find get hardest hit. They would include widows, deserted wives, single parents/widowers - any parent rearing children on their own.”
Requests for help from all groups have continued “steadily” in January, according to Mr Noonan.
“We would normally make 400 calls a week to families and this increases to 1,100 at Christmas. Now we are coming into another busy period, Holy Communions. We have very little left in terms of Communion wear and are appealing to people to donate boys and girls Communion clothes to us. The sooner we get them, the better because people are already putting down deposits on such items in shops.”
He says he was humbled by the “incredible” response of Galway people to the society’s Christmas appeal.
“Our collection was way up on other years. In the middle of a recession this is incredible. It is very humbling for all of us.”
He stresses people do not need to be “destitute” to contact the St Vincent de Paul for help.
“We can’t pay €10,000 in mortgage arrears for someone but we can advise them. We can help them work out something. We would advise people to get in touch with us and their lenders sooner rather than later.”