St Vincent de Paul in Derry is taking hundreds of calls a week from people looking for help over Christmas.
Derry’s SVdP Area President, Bernard Feeney, said; “Demand on the charity this year is unprecedented. This obviously is our busiest time of year but 2011 is busier than ever .
“We are easily taking hundreds of calls for assistance on a weekly basis. I’ve personally taken calls as late as 11pm, people are that worried about Christmas.”
The organisation is also coping with thefts, with continuing problems with shoplifters at its shop in William Street in Derry.
Thieves also stole a metal bin being used to collect clothes for the charity in the grounds of Ardmore Church.
The bin was valued at £800 and there was an unknown quantity of clothing inside.
Mr Feeney said they were now issuing an “urgent and serious” appeal for warm winter clothes, such is the demand on the charity. “Thieves made off with the container and its contents sometime during the night of Sunday week, thereby denying the clothes to those most in need.
“It is hard to believe the entire bin was stolen. The contents were to go to those most in need. It was taken for purely personal gain, unlike those stealing from our shop. I would think the shoplifting is being carried out by people simply in survival mode.
“Leaving Christmas appeals aside for a second, there is a dire urgency for warm winter clothing. We just can’t source enough.
“We are talking about the most vulnerable people going cold. We need clothing and warm bedding. We are even accepting second hand bedding such is the level of need.”
Police are also investigating the attempted fraud of a city centre business carried out in the name of the charity.
Mr. Feeney warned businesses to be careful when faced with someone purporting to be from the charity.
“We never cold call anyone, organise street collections or drop in unannounced. All our staff have identification cards and these should be double checked with our head office.”
All donations to Saint Vincent de Paul can be made via any parochial house or to the charity’s head office at 23 Bridge Street.