Free Tallaght Christmas dinner for the homeless will feed at least 240

Free Tallaght Christmas dinner for the homeless will feed at least 240

By Mary Dennehy

A MAN who lost his home three years ago has this week thanked the community for staging a free Christmas dinner for those in need – and for giving him the gift of “not feeling homeless” for one day.

The free, community-led, Christmas dinner for the homeless is being held in Tallaght Adventure World for the third year running this December 25 – with food, warm clothes and gift donations still coming in from residents, schools, community groups, organisations and businesses.

tallaght adventure world 22 December 2016

Run by Tallaght Adventure World owner and Tallaght Sinn Féin councillor, Dermot Richardson, and VISIT, a community-based soup kitchen, the dinner will feed around 240 individuals and families this year who are sleeping rough or living in hotels.

An army of local volunteers, alongside chefs, will also donate their time for the Christmas Eve preparations, Christmas Day dinner and St Stephen’s Day clean-up – with local businesses Thornton’s and Skip Trans collecting any rubbish generated on the day for free.

Tallaght native Patrick O’Neill (57) lost his home in Clondalkin three years ago due to a rent increase that he couldn’t afford and ended up living on the streets.

Now based in a city-centre hostel, Patrick told The Echo: “This will be my third Christmas Dinner in Tallaght Adventure World and I can’t explain the impact it has on me and all of the other homeless people who attend.

“The event is brilliant, it gives you a little boost, and I don’t feel homeless for that day.

“Christmas is a very lonely time for a person who is homeless and who doesn’t have their family around them, and this day makes those who attend feel valued and a part of something special again.”

He added: “The effort put in by the community is also amazing, people really go out of their way.

“It just shows you what can be achieved when people come together, and I think it’s now time for the Government to work together and do something about homelessness.

“I’m in town every day and all I see is more and more people sitting in doorways… and it’s the little kids that I feel sorry for.

“Something has to change.”

Over recent days, volunteers have been out in the community picking up donations and shoe-box appeals – with one lady in Celbridge collecting 300 boxes.

Cllr Dermot Richardson said: “A lot of donations are still coming in, people have been so generous again this year.

“We’re looking at feeding around 240 people again this year, made possible by the giant community effort.

“However, while it is so positive that we can stage this day, it’s also sad that nothing has changed since we held the first Christmas Dinner three years ago – which was set up as a trial.

“The demand for the Christmas Dinner is still going and still growing… and it’s important that we all remember that homelessness is not a one-day issue, it’s year-round.”

Any food left over from the dinner will be brought into the Capuchin Day Centre on St Stephen’s Day, while donations will also be made of food, clothes or gifts to community-based projects – which can be used over the coming months to support those in need.

Free transport will be provided on the day and a doctor and a nurse will also be on site in Tallaght Adventure World should anybody need care or advice.

Cllr Richardson also encouraged any person struggling this Christmas to get in touch, as it’s not too late to join the dinner.

For further information visit the Tallaght Adventure World Facebook page or Call Dermot on 087 2036468 or Nicola on 087 3679223.

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