Home News London- Irish community takes action to combat hunger

London- Irish community takes action to combat hunger

A group from the London-Irish community have come together to do what they can to help those struggling with food poverty and homelessness.

Called ‘Irish in London, action against hunger’, the group was sparked into life by John Ryan of JPR Roofing Solutions who took to social media to see if there was a willingness out there to help those struggling in these uncertain times.

John was inundated with offers of help from other contractors as well as publicans, charity workers and his own GAA club, North London Shamrocks.

A crowdfunding page has already raised £1,400+ of the £3,000 target.

The group are planning to hand out food and other needed essential items at the Irish Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 12 June and are hoping to keep it going on a monthly basis from then on.

John Ryan, from Portlaoise, told The Irish World: “I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t expect it to take off at all.

“A lot of people have got involved. I play Gaelic for North London Shamrocks and they’re really on board as well. Maybe not this time around but we’ll get some of the players down next time. We want this to become a recurring night.

“Austin Whelan of Whelan’s Bar is helping out a lot. Someone from Hendon Rugby Club has raised a lot of money.

“Conor Campbell has generously offered his food van for the night.

“As it goes on, I am hoping it gets bigger and turns into a proper charity thing that we can keep running hopefully.

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“There’s about nine contractors involved. I set it up Irish contractors in London initially and I dropped that because people who wanted to help were messaging me saying, ‘I’m not a contractor’ so I said, ‘You know what? Let’s change it. We’re losing a lot of potential’.”

The idea followed some pro bono work John and his company had already been doing to help those who need a helping hand in these times.

“I have been doing these free roof repairs in lockdown for OAPs, NHS key workers and people with long term medical conditions. I’ve done about 70 jobs for people eligible.

“People have been sharing it on community groups  and it’s been getting a lot of attention for the business so it’s been working both ways. We have been flat out working.”

Homelessness was a massive issue before the pandemic. The crisis has only amplified the problem with people unable to pay their rent and even getting evicted despite the government making evictions illegal.

Janet Matthewson is CEO of The Young Barnet Foundation and is one of those who has joined the appeal.

Janet told The Irish World: “There is a need out there. It’s about making a difference where and when you can.

“People just need a helping hand now until life gets a bit better.

“It’s just about being kind and doing something rather than thinking, ‘Isn’t that a shame?’

“I know there are a lot of homeless people that have mental health issues and substance abuse but that is not the case in all cases, especially now with Covid.

“If they’ve had to isolate and they don’t get paid then people use food banks, people need food.

“Even in Barnet which is seen as quite a wealthy, green, leafy borough, our food bank use has gone through the roof. It’s dying down slightly now but we have a lot of asylum seekers and they don’t have access to cooking facilities. They might have a microwave but that’s about it.

“I think being first generation Irish, you understand there is always someone that is new to the country, new to a community and they don’t have any fallback plans.

“Homelessness has leapt up because people have been let go from jobs and they didn’t have any security.

“Unskilled, low paid workers have been really affected because they haven’t been furloughed, they have just been let go.

“I know there was a stop on the evictions but I don’t think that stopped it truly.  I think some people were just told they had to leave and they left because they felt they couldn’t pay their rent so they had to.

“John Ryan put something up saying, ‘I think we should do something’ so I sent him a message.

“Because I’m involved in the charitable world, I knew that I could help them a bit more. I have contacts to get them cheaper versions of what they need to support homeless people and access to free surplus food so I just thought, ‘I could add value’. I couldn’t really not.

“I Just thought, ‘Yes, it’s the right thing to do’.

“I think everyone’s thinking, ‘Is this a one-off? Should we do it once a month? ‘I think we’re feeling our way but I think everyone is doing it for the right reasons.

“It’s not about how much you can give. It’s about whatever you can give because there but for the grace of God go I.

“If someone gave a pound or two pounds, it all helps.”

For more information and to donate, click here.

You can get involved by emailing [email protected].

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