IN an effort to raise awareness of the escalating threat of homeless in the region, the Mid West Simon Community held a sleep out at Kilrush GAA Club last Friday night. Thirty five people took part by sleeping in a box, which formerly held a fridge or a washing machine, while some opted to sleep in an army-style tent.
Each participant has until the end of October to raise €250 for the Mid West Simon Community. While organisers were grateful to everyone who raised money, Geraldine Lambert, chairperson of Board of Directors of Mid West Simon Community, stressed that increasing awareness of the spectre of homelessness is equally important.
“Just as important is raising the awareness. It could be a neighbour, a friend or a work colleague. Somebody that you wouldn’t expect to be going throught a trauma. It’s good to be able to say to them ‘why don’t you give Mid West Simon a ring and see if you can get help?’ It can happen to anybody. Some people have their pay packet but it’s the home that is going,” the board chairperson said.
Ms Lambert pointed out that people’s perception of homelessness is no longer accurate in contemporary society.
“Traditionally, the view of homeless people is that they are people who have mental health problems, addiction problems or other severe problems that are causing them to be homeless. What we’re finding in Mid West Simon is that there is a newer element of homelessness. They are people who may have a roof over their heads but the roof is in jeopardy or it’s from the kindness of family of friends that they have roof,” the former Shannon town councillor said.
“What we’re also finding is that there are problems with people who have been in rented accommodation for years but because the landlord is in a distressed mortgage situation, the banks are insisting that when they take the property back, that it is vacant. So, people are getting a notice to quit even though they have been great tenants for years. Then they are finding themselves completely at sea as to where they should go looking for something. Maybe because of a low income they haven’t money for a deposit or they just don’t know where to turn. We’re finding more and more of those kind of people coming to Simon and indeed the other agencies would tell you the same thing.
“A lot of it is hidden homelessness because it’s not on the street but they are effectively without a roof over their heads,” Geraldine has found.
Mid West Simon manager, Jackie Bonfield, was keen to acknowledge the contribution made by volunteers at the event, including the Red Cross and people who helped to put up tents and supply food. Speaking prior to the sleep out participants retiring for the night, Jackie said the event, which was the first of its kind, was going well.
“I’m delighted. Everybody came here for the right reasons and it’s all done in a good spirit. Every appreciates that they are going to have a rough few hours ahead of them but I think they will be well looked after. We haven’t had any escapees yet. I think we might get Dermot (O’Mahony), who is the GAA club secretary, to lock the gate because it might get cold at 3 o’clock in the morning,” she joked.
“This is the first year of it. We wanted to make it something different so that people could spend some time thinking about homelessness rather than us saying you have to be homeless for the night. The clubhouse here is great. It’s ideal. For the GAA club to let us out on the pitch is brilliant,” she added.
Along with the Limerick Leader and The Tipperary Star, The Clare Champion is a media partner of the Mid West Simon Sleep Out. Managing Director John Galvin and editor Austin Hobbs were amongst those who spent the night sleeping at the GAA field.
It is envisaged that a second sleep out will be held again in Kilrush in 2015. The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick and Semple Stadium in Thurles have sleep outs arranged this weekend.