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The Tale of the Liberty Soup Run

He overcame challenges and is now giving back to the communityChristopher O’Reilly, co-founder of the Liberty Soup Run, speaks to The Liberty.

“It was 20 years of madness,” recalls Christopher O’Reilly, co-founder of the Liberty Soup Run, a non-profit organisation. Speaking to The Liberty, he explains how he had struggled with addiction starting in his adolescence.  

Originally from the Liberties, he struggled with addiction for a years. “It was in 2016 that I reached rock bottom,” he says. “I had lost everything, my family and friends and I was just about homeless.”  

It was a turning point for O’Reilly. He decided to seek help in a treatment centre in Co.Wicklow. Along his 16-month journey in the centre, he found his true calling – giving back to the community.  

“Within the centre, they did work similar to what we’re doing now. They helped out families in need and homeless people. I fell in love with it, it was sort of a new addiction,” he says lightheartedly.  

“It’s just about giving people a chance to get their lives back.”

With the help of his uncle, Fran Dempsey, O’Reilly began the Liberty Soup Run. It has been operational for a little over two years now and is focused on helping out people in the Liberties area. What started out as, “a table with maybe two flasks of water and a few sandwiches on Meath Street“, has transformed into a city-wide operation.  

The Liberty Soup Run team. Photo credit: C.O’Reilly 

With more than 33 volunteers across the Liberties area, The Liberty Soup Run has a number of ways to help the homeless and people struggling in the area.  

According to an article in The Irish Times, there are currently over 8,000 adults homeless in Ireland, with over 3,000 of them being in Dublin.

There was also a 40% increase in the number of people who died on the streets in 2020 compared to 2019, a figure that was double of that of 2018.  

Vans go out seven nights of the week with food and clothes for people sleeping rough. They also are responsible for the organisation of a Soup Run in both Ballyfermot and Thomas Street, which runs on Thursdays and Fridays weekly.   

“It’s just about giving people a chance to get their lives back”

– CHRISTOPHER O’REILLY, CO-FOUNDER OF THE LIBERTY SOUP RUN

Not receiving any funding from the State, the organisation relies heavily on the public for donations and support. “Without them, we could not do it.”  

As well as food and donations, O’Reilly also spoke about the importance of ‘breaking the cycle’. “Over the last couple of months, we got about six or seven women and about 15 or so men into treatment centres. It’s not just about feeding them, it’s about getting them off the streets and giving them a purpose, whether that is out working or volunteering with us.”  

When asked about the impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on their work, O’Reilly explained that they were “still working 7 days a week”.  

The entire family is involved in giving back to the community. Fran Dempsey, who is in charge of running The Liberty Food Bank, just off Cork Street, set up a programme on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to give out food hampers to those in need during the lockdown – a practice that has continued on to this day.  

However, with the tightening of restrictions and the looming possibility of another lockdown, the Liberty Soup Run and other organisations like it face a number of problems.  

In an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19, people donating food must be HACCP trained and label ingredients and use specified packaging before they can donate. Another stipulation is that there must be hot running water at the Soup Run.  

O’Reilly described how rules like these really have an impact on the amount of work they are able to do. “They’re making our job difficult while we’re doing their job for them.”  

O’Reilly says the local authority has been supportive, however.  

“Dublin City Council is after putting us up in Smithfield on podiums and projectors, so they’re acknowledging the work we’re doing. The local guards are acknowledging the work that we’re doing.”  

The Liberty Soup Run seems to be prepped and ready for a long winter ahead. “it’s just about giving people as much as we can during those months, whether that’s a hot water bottle or a sleeping bag or even just talking to them. That’s what they really need.”  

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