With a St Vincent de Paul Visitation Conference in Longford town, Edgeworthstown, Ballymahon and, in recent weeks, the establishment of a branch in Granard, the organisation is under major pressure to cope with the increased demand for the services it is providing around the county.
Evidence of this, can be seen from the fact that three additional visitation conferences have been established in this county over the past two years, as pressure incereased on the St Mel’s Conference in Longford town to cope with demand.
With the annual Christmas Appeal now in the pipeline, SVP members are urging local people to dig deep this Christmas and support the organisation.
“Electric bills are a major, major problem – some bills are reaching a couple of thousand euros,” Kathleen Mimnagh, Secretary, St Mel’s Conference explained. “We are inundated with people coming to SVP, in what can only be described as a desperate state looking for help with those bills – we are now referring people to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). We give out vouchers for food where possible but we don’t pay bills – there is so much demand on services now that we have to ensure that our resources are spread evenly.”
Ms Mimnagh went on to say that she had seen “entire families” sleeping on a mattress in a down stairs room of family homes, because the electricity had been cut off due to outstanding payments and homes were “absolutely freezing”.
Members of the local SVP team also claim that calls seeking help and assistance with the purchase of food and clothes had increased “threefold” to the helpline in Longford town and they also say that those most of risk in the current climate include those who were self employed and middle income earners.
“There are people with nothing – they have no food and that is especially true with people who were self employed and owned their own business in the good times, then when everything went downhill – they found themselves without an income or State entitlements; so to say that there are people out there in very bad circumstances, is an understatement,” Ms Mimnagh further added.
“There are people in Co Longford and they can’t put food on the table to feed their children or themselves.”
“We are appealing to the people of Longford to donate as generously as they can to our upcoming food appeal; we are also holding a bag pack in the coming weeks in Dunnes and we are currently taking orders for our Christmas Hampers, which I am afraid to say, has tripled this year compared to last year.”