Feed the Homeless: The Empathy of The Muslim Sisters of Éire

Jackie Costa Ribeiro

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If you were homeless you would be very thankful that there are people in the world like Lorraine O’Connor. Lorraine is a member of the Muslim Sisters of Éire, a charity that every Friday evening feeds the homeless people of Dublin outside the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. This reporter talked to Lorraine about the important work that she does for society.

The Muslim Sisters of Éire set up stalls outside the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell street every Friday evening to feed the homeless. Photo Credit: Jackie Cost Ribeiro.

To make the world a better place you just have to have a bit of empathy. Empathy and a little bit of love and a little bit of understanding, (as well as) the hand of generosity, the hand of kindness and the hand of giving,” Lorraine said.

There are 6,052 people homeless in Dublin. This number is based on the amount of people that accessed emergency accommodation in the week of 19 – 25 February 2018, as reported in the latest Homelessness Report from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. This figure includes 1,739 families, with 3,755 homeless children. A similar report is created every six months and, instead of the situation getting better, the number of people homeless in Dublin is actually increasing. There are also 184 people who sleep rough in Dublin, according to a count taken on the night of 7th November 2017 by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive.

This reporter wanted to find out more about the volunteers that help homeless people and the great work that they do for society. Every Friday a large group of homeless people gather outside the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, waiting to be fed by a group called the Muslim Sisters of Éire. When I arrived in front of the building, I briefly introduced myself and I explained the importance of writing about the work being done. I was directed to speak to Lorraine O’Connor, who is responsible for the project and is the spokesperson for this organization. Lorraine, with a smile on her face, immediately accepted our invitation and generously opened up for an interview.

Above Lorraine O’Connor (far right) and two assistants from the Muslim Sisters of Éire, getting ready to the feed the homeless on O’Connell street. Photo credit Jackie Costa Ribeiro.

“Muslim Sisters of Éire is an Irish registered charity organisation made up of women from all over the world”, Lorraine explained. “We have an open-door policy, it’s not only Muslim women, it’s open to all women”.

“The food project is just one part (of what we do)”, Lorraine continued. “Muslim Sisters of Éire was established in (July) 2010 so we’re eight years running. We have been feeding the homeless here outside the G.P.O. for the last two years.  So, we come together every Friday night with 4 six-foot tables. We have food from restaurants, food from women, donations from different charities to help us to combat the dire need of the homeless situation in Ireland”.

According to the Muslim Sisters of Éire website (http://www.msoe.ie) they buy their food very cheaply through FoodCloud Hub, which is a social enterprise that allows distributors and producers in the food industry to give surplus food to charities, instead of throwing it away.

A table of food, provided by Muslim Sisters of Éire which homeless people are welcome to take. Photo Credit: Jackie Costa Ribeiro.

According to their website, Muslim Sisters of Éire is a women’s charity group that focus on areas of integration, interfaith activities, fundraising and helping those in economic hardship.

“Helping the homeless is just one part of our projects”, Lorraine explained. “We also look after some of the refugees in direct provision, we look after Muslim women who need help, we look after families who are struggling, we do conferences on Muslim women, we have a huge diverse category of different projects that we carry out”, she said.

“We’re very involved in integration, diversity, inter-cultural (activities), were involved in getting women out of their little groups and getting them out into society and mixing and getting them into the wider community”, Lorraine continued.

This reporter wanted to know more about what motivates Lorraine to carry out her fabulous work for society and what she believed was needed to make the world a better place. “How to make the world a better place is just to have a bit of empathy”, she said.

 Empathy and a little bit of love and a little bit of understanding, (as well as) the hand of generosity, the hand of kindness (and) the hand of giving.

When asked about her views on the current homeless problem in Dublin, Lorraine believes that “it’s increasing. We could up to 200 or 300 people a night”, she said. “The homeless situation is increasing, and this is just Friday night that we’re here. But every night there are soup runs in Dublin. Every single night people are out feeding the homeless. So, the homeless situation is increasing, it’s not decreasing”.

To combat homelessness, the government have a number of initiatives. As part of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, which was launched by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on 19th July 2016, it is hoped to phase out the use of emergency accommodation such as hotels by homeless families and instead, to offer rapid-build housing. Other options are to provide them with vacant properties and to provide homeless families with a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to help them to move from emergency accommodation into private rented houses and apartments.

Another successful government campaign to tackle homelessness is Dublin’s Housing First Intensive Case Management Team (ICM), which is run by the Peter McVerry Trust and Focus Ireland and attempts to help long-term homeless people by providing them with permanent, stable and supported housing, so that they do not have to rely on emergency accommodation.

However, these schemes take time. In the meantime, the homeless people on the streets of Dublin need to be fed. Without organisations such as Muslim Sisters of Éire, the homeless problem in Dublin could become a tragedy.

If you’d like to help the homeless with the Muslim Sisters of Éire, just call to the GPO any Friday night from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. As Lorraine explained “we’ve had students from UCD, Trinity College, D.I.T., we give them a night and they serve with us. Put together all of your students, let me know how many are coming, and we give you a chance to feed the homeless and to have an experience of it”, she said.

 

Information details about the Muslim Sisters of Éire below:

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/muslimsisterofeire/

Website: http://www.msoe.ie/

Alternatively, contact Lorraine O’Connor by telephone at 086 7854 866.

You make the difference. Get involved. Let’s build a better world together. 🌎

 

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Jackie Costa Ribeiro

Jaqueline Costa Ribeiro, was born in Itapevi, Brazil in 1984. She graduated from the Bandeirante University of São Paulo (UNIBAN) with a degree in Technology in Radio and TV Management in 2008 and a postgraduate diploma in Television Communication Studies in 2010. Currently, she is living in Dublin and undertaking a Masters in Journalism and Media Communications at Griffith College.