A charity says comments by the Housing Minister about soup runs are "just unbelievable".
Minister Darragh O'Brien said yesterday while many volunteers are well-meaning, there was a need to ensure those who deal with vulnerable people are "properly qualified to do so" and vetted.
Speaking on The Hard Shoulder, Minister O'Brien suggested that soup runs are not considered best practice when it comes to helping homeless people.
Meanwhile, a recent Dublin Region Homeless Executive review found there are up to 20 groups - mostly activists - are operating on-street services in Dublin, offering food, sleeping bags and other supports.
There have been calls for coordination between groups to ensure the system does "the very best for people", while the DRHE report called for a licensing system that would be applied "rigorously" to all services.
Lorraine O'Connor from the Muslim Sisters of Eire - a registered charity that operates a registered soup run - spoke to Lunchtime Live, expressing frustration at the recent comments from the DRHE and Housing Minister.
She said officials should join the groups operating these services to see the work they do.
She said: “Come down on a Friday night, when these groups are out there, and speak to the service users… listen to their voice.
“The soup runs that are out there, seven days a week… people rely on these soup runs: totally rely on them.
“If there are  ad-hoc soup runs out there… are those soup runs going home with empty cars at night? They’re going home empty-handed - they’re getting cleared out. There’s obviously a need.
“We’re down there six years now. Pre-COVID, from our data… our highest rate was 290. During the pandemic, it went up to 500 - that’s 500 hot meals a week. That’s a lot of people.”
Lorraine said the work for their own Friday soup run begins mid-week, and they're now fully registered with the HSE.
She said there are other groups that also do "amazing" work when it comes to soup runs.
“We feel like we’re being bullied"
Glenda from the Friends Helping Friends soup run says she goes out near Trinity College two nights a week.
She said: "I’d normally feed on a Sunday night 300 people… a little bit less on a Tuesday night.
“I’m not a registered charity. We rely completely on donations - we don’t take cash ever, so we ask people to put money into the wholesaler’s account… and the butcher’s account.
“I do all the cooking - I’m HAACP-trained.”
She said she "completely agrees" with the minister that anyone operating a soup run needs to be vetted, but some of the other comments made by officials recently have been "insulting".
She observed: “We feel like we’re being bullied… in our minds, they don’t want us there anymore. [It's like] we’re an embarrassment, and our queues are an embarrassment.
“The people are still going to be there, and our services will still be needed - we just won’t be there anymore.”
She said they don't try to deal with the complex needs of homeless people like many of the State-funded organisations do, but do feed them and offer a "listening ear, compassion and empathy".