A report has recommended a licensing system for soup runs in Dublin claiming that they are causing anti social problems in the city centre and are not helping the homeless.
The report entitled, On Street Food Services in Dublin, was commissioned by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive.
It found there are 16 to 20 groups operating and the report criticised the authorities for not protecting the general public and the homeless population themselves.
"Most on-street services are not registered as charities but appeal for goods and services and raise money from the public; volunteers provide services to vulnerable people without the necessary skills or supports; they engage with people who are homeless without reference to the DRHE National Quality Standards; they serve food but are not registered with Environmental Health services; and they break parking and other regulations without sanction," stated the review which was conducted by consultant Mary Higgins.
The report stated that only four of the 20 groups contacted agreed to co-operate with the review.
Of the four that co-operated, two were motivated by Christian faith and the other two by social activism.
The report stated that it is believed that some groups were politically motivated.
"Their narrative is that street homelessness is out of control and worsening day by day, that more and more people need on-street services for survival and solace, that the Government is doing nothing to address it and that it can be solved by food and tents."
However, the review states that homeless services have improved especially since the Covid pandemic and that there is now a surplus of emergency accommodation which is available 24/7 and offers full board.
It also stated that food is accessible through Day Services in the city centre which continued to function during lockdown by offering their services on a take-away basis.
"On-street services report that they are 'feeding the homeless' who come to them starving, but this is not borne out by the evidence. People who are homeless are not the main users of services."
The report found that users of soup runs are mainly migrant groups and include a variety of people including taxi drivers.
"It is thought that the queues and crowds that gather at the food stalls create opportunities for drug dealing and other unsavoury activities, putting people who are vulnerable at risk of exploitation."
"The model of on-street services where people queue for food and eat in full public view on the main streets of the city is inherently humiliating, undignified and potentially unsafe."
The report stated that Grafton Street, South King Street, College Green, the GPO, North Earl Street, Thomas Street were the main areas of operation.
"There had been reports of serious disputes over 'patches' in the past, at least some of which had required intervention by An Garda Síochána," it stated.
It also stated that the charity regulator has received 25 complaints about 10 unregistered groups working with the homeless, including five in Dublin.
The review involved street visits, interviews with the four on-street groups, established homeless charities, residents in emergency accommodation, but not users of the soup runs.
Among the recommendations of the review is a licensing system, a high level working group to enforce regulations and to attempt to get soup run volunteers to work in a formal setting.
Councillor Mannix Flynn (Independent) said he supported the report's findings and said there should be "strong support standards for the homeless, the same as there is for everyone else".
He also condemned "activists" involved in the soup runs who he said "are hellbent on spreading misinformation and making political capital out of the problem".
Councillor Flynn said he had been urging a licensing system and vetting of volunteers for years.