Former Ards brother helps the ‘new poor’

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Reporter:

Michelle Nic Phaidin

On Wednesday morning last, Brother Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin Friary in Dublin’s Bow Street had handed out between 1,300 and 1,400 food parcels and by 3pm had fed around 700 people. Those who lined up for food came from vastly different backgrounds and came from all different areas of the country.

On Wednesday morning last, Brother Kevin Crowley of the Capuchin Friary in Dublin’s Bow Street had handed out between 1,300 and 1,400 food parcels and by 3pm had fed around 700 people. Those who lined up for food came from vastly different backgrounds and came from all different areas of the country.

The Capuchin Day Centre was founded by Brother Crowley in the late 1960s as a response to the people who came to the friary door seeking food aid or who were huddled around the heaters in the back of the church. The friendly brother spent ten years in the Ards Friary in Creeslough where he enjoyed the beauty of the area and the friendliness bestowed upon him by the people of the region.

“I loved the Donegal people despite the fact that I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me, I am originally from Cork. I spent ten years in that wonderful county and found the people to be really lovely. They are fabulous people. I spent my time in Ards Friary in the beautiful surroundings of Creeslough. I very much enjoyed my time there,” he said.

On his return to the capital, around the year 2000, Brother Kevin, began working with the poor again. “This morning we would have already have fed seven hundred people and handed out between 1,300 and 1,400 food parcels to people. We have a ‘new poor’ and then we have the homeless,” he said.

He described the ‘new poor’ as those who have lost their jobs and those who are on the verge of losing their jobs. “This morning I had a man at my door at six o’clock. He had walked quite a distance. He had made the journey as early as he could as he wanted to get food for his children before they went to school. Once he got the children to school, he had to go to hospital to avail of kidney dialysis. That is the way things are now,” he said.

He added that over the years he has witnessed a severe rise in the amount of poverty on the doorstep of his north inner city day centre. The free food which he gives to the hungry are given to people from every county and to people from every walk of life. It is no longer only the homeless that avail of his charity.

“If you meet anyone who is in trouble you can tell them to come to Bow Street and we will try and help them out. We will give them food, let them use our facilities to wash, they can avail of all types of medical help and see a chiropodist and an optician. They can also see social workers who will speak to them,” the charitable brother said.

He said that his establishment strives to meet the needs of as many people as they can during these trying times. “We try and meet as many people as we actually can. “We provide a breakfast and an afternoon dinner. The food is good and it varies a lot to meet the needs of the people. People from every county visit us here,” he said.

His golden rule with working with the homeless and the ‘new poor’ is to ask no questions and deal with people with the utmost respect. “We don’t ask questions. We treat people like we would like to be treated ourselves with as much dignity and respect as we can,” he said.

In around 2006, around four hundred people turned up for the Christmas food parcels. Now, the establishment caters for around three times that number on a daily basis. Brother Kevin Crowley said the ‘new poor’ would previously have been considered middle class, but in these straitened time need the support of services such as these.

In 2009, Brother Kevin Crowley was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) for his contribution and commitment to relieve the hardship endured by homeless people. The Centre has now become a nucleus for the impoverished in Dublin and for those who find themselves on hard times during these recessive times. The nucleus radiated from a small operation in the 1970s. It now forms an essential part of life for people on and off the Dublin streets. It provides a support system for the desolate and marginalised in the city.

Brother Kevin can be seen daily outside the friary on Bow Street chatting and smiling with those who unfortunately are in need. No one is ever refused at the Capuchin Day Centre on Bow Street and for that reason people are now flocking to it in their droves.

“The numbers have increased dramatically over the years. We do our best here to meet their needs. Many people volunteer to work here. As the number of those in need increased due to the recession so too did the number of those who volunteered to work here. We have witnessed a great generosity of spirit. We have a young man from Falcarragh who has volunteered to help here at the moment,” he said.

The Mission Statement of the Bow Street establishment reads: “Inspired by the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we at the Capuchin Day Centre welcome people in need of food aid who have no home, or are socially excluded and respecting their dignity, provide a caring pastoral, holistic and non-judgmental service responsive to their needs.”