focus ireland sleep out

'On my way home I saw 7 people sleeping rough - I'm lucky'

Business, community and political figures slept rough for one night in aid of Focus Ireland.

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AS THE WIND howled and the rain fell on Friday night, a group of volunteers huddled in sleeping bags in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens and Cork’s City Gaol.

It was all in aid of Focus Ireland, the homeless charity, with business people, religious figures and political party members all taking part.

The Shine A Light sleep out was to raise awareness of the number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Ireland, and also to bring the participants’ attention to how they can help from their more privileged positions.

The big sleep out began at 7pm on Friday night and ended at 6.30am on Saturday morning. Those sleeping out for the night included the Very Reverend Dermot Dunne, who is Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Ronan Harris, director with Google Ireland, Jerry Buttimer TD, and Sammy Leslie, owner of Castle Leslie.

More than €100,000 was raised by volunteers.

Among the participants in Dublin were councillors recruited by their colleague, Independent Cllr Lorna Nolan.

Cllr Nolan said that it wasn’t hard work to recruit people for the sleep out. “Everybody was eager and willing. There was no arm twisting,” she said.

The night had a powerful effect on her. “It was very emotional, very different. It’s not something I can put into words.”

“I was cold, to some degree lonely, and it’s not something I would be able to do two or three nights in a row.”

During the night she went for a walk and met some people who are homeless, to find out their stories. “I would imagine it strips your identity,” said Cllr Nolan of homelessness.

“Focus do very good work, and have great projects going forward in the prevention of homelessness. But I think there’s a shortfall out there to be honest,” she said. “I would definitely do it again to raise money.”

She said that the event made her feel very emotional. “When you’re coming home the next day… I think we were all very silent, just reflecting.”

The councillors are due to meet soon to have a discussion about what else they can do to tackle homelessness. “It was a very good example of how people work together when there’s a common interest.”

She added: “It’s not just a one hit wonder with me.”

“I’m lucky”

Green Party Cllr Roderic O’Gorman took part in Dublin, and said that he was moved to sleep out was because homelessness “is one of the biggest issues we’re facing, the wider housing crisis and homelessness being part of it”.

He said that he regularly has people ringing him “in crisis or near-crisis situations”.

I felt I could help Focus raise some money but you can’t really understand the magnitude of what it’s like until you go out there to sleep out there for a night.

“On my way home I walked past seven people who were rough sleeping for real – I’m lucky to have a home to go to,” he said.

As the rain held off after midnight, the participants in Dublin were able to get some sleep, but O’Gorman said they learned that “if there’s a complete downpour, no amount of plastic sheeting is going to save your sleeping bag on the ground”.

Read: ‘My mother was also an addict and as a child I was on the streets of Cork with her’>

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