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Practical ways to help people who are homeless this Christmas

It can be as simple as saying hello to someone when you see them on the streets.

Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE HOMELESSNESS AND housing crisis in Ireland has continued this year. 

Emergency accommodation figures for October show that 8,737 people were in emergency accommodation, including 6,095 adults and 2,642 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. 

However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions in place, many ways charities receive help from the public in the lead up to Christmas won’t be possible this year. 

So, we got in touch with some of them to find out practical ways to help people who are homeless over the next few weeks, while being mindful of Covid-19 and the guidelines surrounding the virus. 

From Depaul

Volunteer:

Depaul’s volunteer activities have been impacted greatly with Covid-19. However, we hope to get back to some degree of normality before too long, and we are actively exploring ways in which volunteers can get involved remotely, so please get in touch to see how you can get involved. 

Business support:

There are many ways businesses can support those experiencing homelessness at Christmas. You can hold a Christmas jumper day or host a virtual quiz. 

From Peter McVerry Trust

Christmas gifts:

To help families prepare for Christmas, toys are always welcome, including gifts for older children and teenagers. Parents are always appreciative of this support as it eases the pressure on families at this time of year. 
The items below would make a difference to people all across Peter McVerry Trust services: Towels, makeup, sanitary products, rain jackets, cups and mugs, cutlery, chocolate and sweets, pyjamas for people going into hospital, slippers, well-dated food like crackers, crisps, etc, board games, decorations. 
Additionally, One4All vouchers are a great gift to receive as they empower those in receipt of a voucher to make their own choices. 

Fundraising: 

In complying with the government’s public health guidelines, Peter McVerry Trust has seen a number of adaptive fundraisers set up in support of the charity over the past nine months. Virtual walks, runs and cycles ensure protection against groups gathering, while still setting a challenge for those involved and an opportunity to engage in exercise during restrictions. 
For employers foregoing a Christmas party this year, the celebratory budget would make a much-appreciated and generous donation to a charity, or a number of charities, this Christmas. 
In a year when we’ve been asked to stay apart, a Christmas card is an ideal way to stay in touch. Peter McVerry Trust is selling Christmas cards through its shop. All proceeds for the sale of its cards goes directly towards supporting people in homelessness this year. 

From Simon Communities 

Support and prevention:

If you see someone who is experiencing homelessness, contact your local Simon Community. If you know someone who is struggling with their housing situation, please encourage them to contact their local Simon Community, our door is always open. 

From Focus Ireland

Speak out: 

Through your support we can continue to highlight the important changes that need to be made to prevent homelessness. Campaigning is a very important part of our work and we are committed to keeping the issue on the political agenda. 
Everyone can ask their local representative, whether they be a councillor, senator, MEP or TD, what their party’s solutions are to solving the homelessness and housing crisis.

From Ana Liffey Drug Project

Smile:

Some people will be begging in the streets at some point over the festive season. Please give a friendly smile (even with a mask on, people know your eyes are smiling), acknowledge the person who is sitting in the street and if you have time to stop, say hello. 

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Start a conversation about safe alcohol and drug use: 

At Ana Liffey Drug Project, sadly, we have known too many people to die from an overdose over the festive season. Our top tips for keeping yourself safe this Christmas are:

  • Talk with friends and family. Start a conversation about alcohol and drug use in general, and about how to reduce harms.
  • If people are planning to use drugs, remind them that: It is always safer not to take drugs at all.

If you decide to use drugs, remember:

  • When buying, know your source and avoid using alone.
  • Use one drug at a time and avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol.
  • Start with a small test dose and leave at least two hours between use.
  • Educate yourself and others, for more information click here.
As always, remember to follow public health guidelines – wash your hands, wear a face covering, cover coughs and sneezes, and practice social distancing. 
Harm reduction works, and giving someone harm reduction information at Christmas can help them reduce the risk of overdose and keep them #SafeFromHarm. 

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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