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Here are some practical ways you can help homeless people this Christmas and New Year

It can be as simple as treating someone with empathy when they approach you in the street.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE HOMELESSNESS AND housing crisis in Ireland has yet again continued to deepen since Christmas last year.

Emergency accommodation figures for September show that 10,397 people were in emergency accommodation, including 6,524 adults and 3,873 children. 

With those figures in mind, as Christmas is fast approaching many charities and organisations will be going the extra mile to make sure people who find themselves homeless this Christmas will have a warm meal to eat and a bed for the night, at the very least. 

So, we got in touch with some of them to find out some practical ways to help people who are homeless over the next few weeks, and as we enter the new year. 

From St Vincent De Paul

Don’t blame:

Stop seeking to blame homeless people for their circumstances which may be no fault of theirs. 

Respect: 

Treat homeless people you see with respect. A kind word won’t hurt. 

Call: 

Call on local authorities and hotel owners to promise security of stay over Christmas and the New Year for families in emergency accommodation in hotels and B&Bs. 

Continue to lobby: 

Continue to lobby your public representatives to push for more urgent action to reduce homelessness. 

If you are a landlord: 

Consider the consequences for families before you increase the rent or give notice this time of year. 

From Inner City Helping Homeless

Show empathy:

Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year for some people, so approaching someone who is homeless and having a conversation with them can go a long way. 
If you want to buy a hot drink and something to eat for a homeless person, ask them what they would like. Often people will buy a sandwich or drink out of compassion but by asking a homeless person what they would like, they are giving them the choice in what they eat.

Donate:

While many people don’t like to donate money to charities, there are other ways to help.
People can donate the items that are brought out by our outreach teams on a nightly basis. These include sleeping bags, ground mats, hats, scarves, gloves, chocolate, pot noodles and toiletries. They can be dropped into our office at 67 Amiens Street, Dublin 1.

From Depaul

Acknowledge

A kind word is often worth more than some spare change. Homeless people are marginalised and stigmatised; look people in the eye and recognise their existence, even if you can’t spare anything. 

Volunteer:

Volunteer; but remember, people are homeless and in need all year round. While it’s nice to have extra help and goodwill during the festive season, Depaul actively recruits volunteers throughout the year, to help bring fun and activity into our services. See our website for details of the types of volunteer roles we have, and the ways in which you can help out.

Presents for all:

This time of year we run our annual gift campaign where we encourage businesses to sponsor a Depaul service. By sponsoring a service you’ll be making sure that everyone using our services will wake up to a gift on Christmas morning. For more information contact cliodhna.carthy@depaulcharity.net

From Ana Liffey

Start a conversation about safe alcohol and drug use:

The majority of people we work with are homeless or in unsuitable accommodation. For some people who use drugs Christmas can be a very sad time; and for other people who use drugs New Year can be a period of excess.  These, and other scenarios, can lead to people making choices related to their drug consumption that can have tragic consequences.

If you decide to use drugs, remember: 

  • All drug use is risky, it is always safer not to take drugs at all. 
  • When buying drugs, know your source and avoid using alone. 
  • Using with someone else means that the other person can monitor the person who uses.
  • Avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol. Mixing drugs is a common cause of fatal overdose in Ireland. 
  • Start with a small dose and leave at least two hours between use. Nobody can tell you what a safe dose if illicit or unknown drugs is, so go low and slow. 
  • If you use opiates (drugs like heroin and methadone), make sure you have a supply of naloxone for the festive season. This is an antidote used to reserve the effects of opioid drugs if someone overdoses.
If you are with someone you suspect has overdosed, call 112 or 999 and ask for an ambulance. 
Harm reduction works, following harm reduction advice can help reduce the risk of overdose and keep people #SaferFromHarm.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive has an online system whereby people can report the location of a rough sleeper in the capital. This reporting system can be found here.

Details for reporting rough sleepers in other counties around the country can be found here

For more information about the above charities, see here: 

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