SECOND-generation Irish people are among the victims of a hunger epidemic that has erupted since welfare cuts in Britain began to bite.
At the Ace of Clubs day centre for homeless, vulnerable and isolated people in South London, more than 120 people turn up hungry every day, according to centre director David Logan.
Of that number a ‘large contingent’ are second-generation Irish people, in their 30s and 40s.
“Between 12 and 3pm each day we open our doors and provide food, clothing, laundry and showers, as basic immediate needs, to anyone who wants to come here,” said Derry native Mr Logan.
“People want help with lots of things, sustaining their tenancies, managing their arrears and physical health issues, for example, but almost everyone comes with hunger and a need for a hygiene service, to be able to have a shower and do their laundry,” he added.
“That is very different to what was happening five or six years ago.”
The Clapham-based Ace of Clubs centre has existed as a service since 1995 but has transformed rapidly since Mr Logan took on the directorship two years ago, to include outreach, welfare and educational services.
Ironically its work serving the most vulnerable of Irish people falls within an area now most popular with newly-arrived affluent Irish migrants.
For the director the hunger epidemic which has stretched their services to capacity of late is largely connected to the economic climate and not one witnessed by many high-flying business people.
“The issues that people present with here at our service are huge and varied of course,” he said.
“There are a lot of people with mental health and addiction issues, but the largest group are just people who are financially crippled at the moment.”
He added: “They are suffering from a lot of the welfare reforms and that’s a big aspect of why the number had grown so rapidly here.
“Our clients are no longer largely street homeless, but may be living on people’s sofas or they just can’t afford to feed or wash themselves in the accommodation they have,” he explained.
Despite having no funding from local or central government the vibrant Ace of Clubs centre, based within the grounds of St Mary’s Catholic Church near Clapham Common, continues to provide a daily centre for the most vulnerable people in London offering vital services as well as the tools to fight hunger and find warmth, sanitation and shelter.
Among the thousands they serve annually is a vast contingent of Irish people.
“Traditionally there has always been a large contingent of Irish people using the service,” Mr Logan explains.
“That is the same now, but they are more likely to be in their 30s and 40s and they are more likely to be second-generation,” he adds.
“The problem for all communities is that there are cuts, less places to go to find help and increasing issues, so we are seeing an increase on pressure on our services.”
The Ace of Clubs centre relies on fundraising, donations and the generosity of its local community and volunteers to keep its vital service alive for the many thousands of people it serves.
If you can help support the charity or offer your time as a volunteer visit www.aceofclubs.org.uk.