Frank McCourt's family relies almost exclusively on charity, the Church and luck to survive the poverty in which they found themselves. The Catholic Church in the town operated thrift stores and charities which the McCourt's received furniture from when they had more children, and food from in difficult times.
Sometimes McCourt's mother, abandoned by Frank's alcoholic father, resorted to borrowing and begging from the corner store to extend her some credit so the kids could have "rashers (bacon) and eggs". The rent was often late, the pantry often empty and the kids poorly dressed. Charity, quite literally, was how the family survived as well as it did.