MUSLIM WOMEN CARE FOR IRELAND’S HOMELESS

From The Irish Times (Ireland)

It’s 6pm on a Friday in February and Met Éireann has issued a snow and ice warning for most of the country, urging people to stay inside as temperatures plummet nationwide. Flecks of snow blow across O’Connell street as a biting cold wind roars under the arches of the GPO. Around the corner, on Prince’s Street North, Lorraine O’Connor is coordinating the transfer of boxes and bags of food from a couple of parked cars to a group of women setting up tables outside the post office’s front entrance.

After seven years of organising the Muslim Sisters of Éire’s (MSOE) Friday soup kitchen, O’Connor runs the evening like clockwork. This week they have 470 hot dishes ready to hand out along with fruit, cheese, biscuits, bread, fizzy drinks and doughnuts.

Outside the GPO, a crowd of about 50 people has already gathered, waiting patiently to collect their dinner packages. They include single men, young couples, families with five, six, sometimes seven children. Dublin accents mix with languages from across the globe as the diverse group stamp their feet to keep warm.

Shortly after 6.15pm, the women lined up behind the tables start handing out food and the queue begins to move forward. O’Connor hovers nearby, staying away from the crowd because of an underlying health issue but keeping a sharp eye on every single movement. “I’m kind of like the mother hen watching,” she tells me.

Marcin Paskowski is near the top of queue. An electrician by trade, he lives in a nearby apartment but rarely can afford food after paying all his bills, he says. “I try not to abuse the system so don’t come here too often. But I haven’t eaten anything for 72 hours; when I’m starving I come.”

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