By UTV reporter William Esler
A food kitchen in north Belfast says they are experiencing demand like never before. The People’s Kitchen is now serving over 1000 meals per week and delivering around 500 food parcels to houses in the city. “The service is under extreme demand at the moment, we’ve never seen demand like this”, co-ordinator Paul McCusker told UTV. “When we started this service many years ago we were feeding maybe 50 people.” Many of those who use the facility are homeless – a community that is struggling with growing issue of drug abuse. There have been 15 drug related deaths in the city since June and the council has held a special meeting to discuss drugs and homelessness. “We need to see a quicker response as that meeting took place a number of weeks ago,” Paul added. “We need a quicker response from council, public health and Belfast Trust. “We’re seeing increasing numbers of people that are caught up with addiction, poor mental health and poverty. It’s on a scale that I’ve never seen before. It’s frightening. And it’s not just the homeless that are relying on the service as the cost of living crisis bites. “People are walking for miles to get here, they are hungry, they haven’t eaten in days because they are feeding their children. We go out to homes and there is no heat,” Paul said. “We had a man come off a building site last week that was heading home to his family and didn’t have enough money to buy food that night. So people who are working also experience poverty and the working poor is also a big concern as well for us.” And if more support isn’t provided to help tackle the crisis, Paul’s message is clear. “People’s lives will continue to be impacted and people will continue to die through drug addiction and mental health if we don’t get an urgent response.”
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