A charity helping homeless find a better future with jobs, food and an employment and integration service is celebrating two centuries in existence this year.

The Mendicity Institution – which provides 20,000 meals at its headquarters at Island Street near Usher's Quay in Dublin City Centre each year – is the capital’s oldest working charity with outreach services.

Known locally as ‘the Mendo’, the origin of the charity’s name was derived from the word ‘mendicant’ - an historic word for begging.

Mendicity Institution CEO Louisa Santoro said: "This wouldn’t be a term we would use any more. But, what would be unfortunately common is that we do still see people who are sleeping outside and who are begging on the streets of Dublin."

The services provided by the institution has flipped 180 degrees since it began in 1818.

When first establish it helped Irish people earn money for passage to other countries during the great waves of emigration in the 1800s.

Today, however, it mostly helps immigrants arriving here to Ireland for a better life.

Ms Santoro said: "The history of it 200 years ago was that they provided passage for people who wanted to leave Dublin. People worked here for a couple of weeks and they earned their fare for the United States, England, Liverpool, outside of Dublin ... but they left Dublin. Now we are helping people to integrate in to Dublin."

The charity’s food service is its core since it began in 1818.

It serves 20,000 meals each year it and attracts between 50 and 70 homeless daily.

"The food service is a constant, our responses are different than 200 years ago," Ms Santoro added.

 "Our responses are completely different now. We run an employment integration service which saw 1,700 appointments last year in four different languages.

"We help people gaining employment. We help people looking for jobs."

85% of people using these services are eastern European. The breakdown of the main language users are Romanian/Moldovan with over 800 visitors, Polish with around 650, and Lithuanian 150.

"A huge part of what we do is based on people being drawn here because of the language competencies – Russian, Polish, Romanian, and Lithuanian. People come here and the service is delivered in their own language".

The Mendicity Institution also runs a Community Employment Scheme for 16 men.

They make handcrafted greeting cards, book markers and flower boxes from old wooden pallets.

These men, whose average age is 51, were rough sleepers or in very temporary accommodation when they started attending the Mendicity Institution.  

Today, nine are housed in full time accommodation in hostels with their own private rooms.

61-year-old Boris from Bulgaria - a former musician who lost his savings during the banking collapse - moved to Ireland seven years ago. He says the community employment scheme offers him hope.

"I am trying to survive like everybody. It is important. I have some kind of job. It is very important to have some occupation," Boris said.

"This is a positive place because I feel a little safety. At my age you don’t have too much options," he added.

Another important part of the service is the safety it offers homeless to socialise.

One Dublin homeless man Vinnie says the Mendicity Institution gives people like him a place to socialise because going to cafes, pubs and other establishments is not an option.  

"It’s doing a lot of good. People are very socially aware. There is no rowdiness ... and finding a place that gives you a sense of place ... that’s a good thing," Vinnie said.

The Mendicity Institution will sell its flower boxes, greeting cards and bookmarkers at the Fusion Market at New Market Square on Sunday 11 February.

During the summer it will set up stalls at St Anne's in Raheny, the Rose Festival at St Anne's in August, and the Flea Market at New Market Square.

The window boxes are currently also sold at ‘Urban Plant Life’ at Cork Street, Dublin 8 at the Mendicity Institution at Island Street in Dublin city centre.

The money generated from the sale of the community employment handcrafted products goes back in to the institution.

"We would love to see a large book retailer help us with the book markers and put our bookmarks in their books throughout the year," Ms Santoro said.