The Waterford based Regional Administrator of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society said this week that many families in the city and county had fallen on hard times and that poverty and hunger was once again rearing its ugly head in the community.

Mr. David O’Neill said price-hikes in food and fuel, coupled with higher mortgage payments, had pulled a large number of families into the poverty trap. He revealed that calls to the Society for help last November and December had doubled compared to the previous Christmas. The first four months of this year had also seen an increase in appeals for assistance, a situation that was being mirrored in other parts of the country.

“The glow of the economic boom has faded and the harsh reality of the situation is that many people are hungry and many children are going to school hungry. This is not happening abroad somewhere, this is happening in our city and county right now”, he said, adding that there was anecdotal evidence that there had been an increase in the number of house repossessions in recent months.

Mr. O’Neill said the rising cost of fuel had been a big issue for some time. People were cutting back on their heating but the cost of petrol and diesel couldn’t be dealt with so easily. The family car was a vital resource, especially in rural areas, but it was becoming increasingly more expensive to maintain.

The St. Vincent de Paul Administrator said basics like bread, milk, cereals and meats had all gone up in price. Recently, one of his volunteers had done a weekly shop for a single mother and two children and it came to over €100. That only included basic food supplies and did not feature items such as soap, toothpaste and household cleaning products which were essential for personal hygiene.

Mr. O’Neill said he was sure many people would find it hard to believe that what he was saying was true but he stressed that serious poverty did exist and was on the increase although, in many cases, it was hidden and not obvious to behold.

He said that, often, the situations that families found themselves in were of a temporary nature and, with help, the crisis could be overcome. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society worked closely with the MABS organization (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) and, between them, they got many families back on their feet. “The MABS team can offer really good advice about restructuring and family budgeting and, sometimes, we intervene with a short-term injection to get people up and running again”, said Mr. O’Neill