ALMOST 100 hardy souls braved the elements on Friday night in a bid to raise money and awareness of homelessness.
More than €20,000 has been raised for the Mid-West Simon Community following the first annual Sleep Out Challenge, which took place in the Gaelic Grounds.
Some 93 people swapped their warm beds for a spot on the cold concrete floor on the concourse of the Mick Mackey stand, while a brave few slept pitchside as part of the fundraiser.
Joining in the effort were local politicians Mayor Michael Sheahan, Deputies Kieran O’Donnell and Willie O’Dea, as well as Cllrs Joe Crowley, Maurice Quinlivan, Seamus Browne, Eddie Ryan and Frankie Daly.
Each participant was asked to raise at least €250, with the money going towards supporting the Mid-West Simon Community’s work in the region.
Among other things, it will now be able to increase its food bank beyond the boundaries of Limerick.
Charity fundraiser Fianait Mitchell said: “The main thing is to raise awareness of the problem that is out there. I think what we are finding is that you are really only one or two pay cheques away from becoming homeless. The landscape has changed. There is a lot of hidden homeless; people are not presenting to the services. There are plenty of people in mortgage arrears, and that wave is going to come down the line.”
As the temperatures dipped on Friday night, there was entertainment from Tracey Askill and Charlie Cassey, of Pretend with us, while a spicy curry was served by Eoin Fanning of Yum Catering, Ennis.
It was a special night for Garryowen girl Yasmin Williams, who marked her 20th birthday on Saturday. Many of the crowd gathered counted down to midnight for her, while she enjoyed a toast from Mayor Sheahan and the other politicians present to mark her birthday as the clock struck 12.
Student Yasmin said: “It is important to raise awareness and money to help the homeless people. It has been great so far. The games were very good. I got to demonstrate how Beyonce would hit Kim Kardashian with a hurley! I would definitely do it again. It is extremely important to raise awareness of the homelessness. They are suffering every single day, but the Simon community is helping them.”
Mayor Sheahan said: “I am absolutely overwhelmed by the community involvement here. It shows you the amount of good young people we have in our city. It is Friday night, they could be out socialising. Some have work in the morning, but they are here tonight giving up their free time to highlight the homeless situation.”
The event also took place in Kilrush and Thurles.