Limerick sleep out to help make a difference to homeless

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Geraldine Lambert, chairperson Midwest Simon Community, Mayor Michael Sheahan, Irene Hamilton, managing director of the Limerick Leader, and Minister Jan O Sullivan at the launch. Picture: Gareth Williams
AS DARKNESS falls in Limerick city on Friday night, over 100 people will sleep out in the Gaelic Grounds to raise funds for the homeless in the region.

AS DARKNESS falls in Limerick city on Friday night, over 100 people will sleep out in the Gaelic Grounds to raise funds for the homeless in the region.

An initiative of the Mid-West Simon Community, the event was already held in Kilrush last weekend, attracting just under 50 people.

Jackie Bonfield, manager of the Mid-West Simon Community, said she is delighted that double that number will be raising awareness - and funding - for homeless services in the region, and demand for their services is greater the ever.

The most recent available statistics - for 2012 - show that over 1,000 people across the city and county came forward for help, with alcohol, drug addictions and family disputes being the chief causes of homelessness for the majority. The aim of this event is not to replicate the exact situations of homelessness, but encourage people to start talking about homelessness, and perhaps generate a more altruistic attitude towards others.

“It is going to be some night, especially as temperatures are set to drop, so we would encourage people to wrap up well. We have a lot of social science students doing it in Limerick, which is great, and Yum catering are providing all the food free of charge for those who sleep out. We will be taking registrations up until Thursday, and the money has to be in by the end of October.

“The event in Kilrush was a real eye-opener for a lot of people. Very few got a decent night’s sleep over the 10 hours, and many people said they wanted to stay awake all night to get a sense of what it’s really like to be homeless,” Ms Bonfield said.

Eight politicians across four parties have signed up to take part in a sleep out challenge, including Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea, Fine Gael deputy Kieran O’Donnell, Mayor of Limerick Michael Sheahan, Sinn Fein city councillor Maurice Quinlivan, Fianna Fail councillor Joe Crowley and Independent councillor John Gilligan, amongst others.

People are asked to individually raise at least €250 to help fund the services of the Mid-West Simon Community through the sleep out.

The organisation is aiming to raise €100,000 this year for its services through a sleep out challenge in the city and in other centres throughout the Mid-West.

From 8pm to 6am, there will be entertainment to keep spirits high as temperatures dip, while there will also be designated quiet sleep zones in the grounds.

Ms Bonfield said the increase in demand for their services has resulted in what could be considered a “perfect storm” - the housing crisis, high unemployment rates, low rent allowance limits and evictions.