Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.52 17 Oct 2020


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Scores of people have slept outside for Focus Ireland's annual Shine A Light Night.

This year's sleep-out took place virtually, as the campaign to raise awareness for homelessness adapted to the coronavirus pandemic.

Focus Ireland says 9,335 people are homeless in Ireland, with more than 3,000 of those being children.

Its Family Homeless Action Team moved 80 families with 150 children out of homelessness since the start of COVID-19.

While its front line staff have seen a 40% increase in demand for services.

Among those taking part was Down to Business host Bobby Kerr, who slept in his back garden.

Bobby spoke to several others taking part on Friday.

Business woman and publisher Norah Casey told Bobby we should be able to reach a turning point.

"I wish I didn't have to do this - especially after we saw rent freezes and a ban on evictions and Sr Stan was talking back in September about it being a turning point for homelessness this year.

"And of course all of these measures lapsed in August.

"But we did see a significant drop - 1,600 drop - in the number of homeless people.

"I think when the key message most of this year has been 'Stay at home', imagine that there's so many people in Ireland who still don't have a home.

"We talk about rough sleepers, and people keep putting up these elaborate sticking plaster approaches of 'There's loads of hotels free at the moment' - but that's not the answer: people need to have a home, a stable home".

"Now at the moment - and I'm going to get killed for saying this - but we can be very self-absorbed, us humans.

"At the moment because we're going through all sorts of levels of potential level five lockdown and people are talking about how they'll miss their sport, or maybe going outside to a restaurant or having cup of coffee.

"And yet in amongst us there are so many people who don't have it so fortunate".

"If there's one thing that should happen during COVID, it's that we should be able to reach a turning point on rough sleepers and the precarious sleepers who are sleeping in cars and sleeping in family hubs, and sleeping on sofas and bedsits and temporary hotel accommodation".

Rugby player Jamie Heaslip told Bobby: "Honestly, I haven't slept outside since I went camping back with my Dad out in the Wicklow Mountains.

"So this is bringing back good memories on that front, but then making me realise how lucky I am to have a roof over my head.

"Particularly when you talk to people in Focus [Ireland] - a 40% increase in demand of the services, there's probably going to be a bigger increase as well coming down the line.

"Over 9,000 people homeless, over 3,000 of them kids - and that hits home even more.

"My daughter is two, thinking of her homeless is a very, very scary thought.

"So if we can do this one small thing to help raise some funds for a much-needed cause, and you have to go through the pain of just one night when people suffer hundreds of nights like that - or where they have to be put in a one-bed hotel room as a family.

"All these different struggles that we take for granted: it's a humbling experience, if I'm honest".

Chef Paul Treyvaud slept outside with his son Dylan in Kenmare.

He told Bobby: "Focus Ireland got in contact with me during the original lockdown and asked me to be an ambassador for them.

"I was so proud to do something because at the end of the day, I know we're living in a world that's really been taken over by coronavirus at the moment, but there's a lot of other issues that are going on out there as well".

"For me to able to use my platform of being on Virgin Media, or to have such a high presence on social media, it's an absolute honour to be able to really shine a light and to be able to raise much-needed funds".

Paula Cogan is president of the Cork Chamber.

She told Bobby: "It's slightly different Bobby - I've done it before, and I suppose last year we were all on Spike Island, so there we others involved.

"So it's a little bit lonely on my own, but still it's great that we actually can do it".

"I am very fortunate, I'm involved in the business community in Cork, but keenly aware of the work that charities do.

"And particularly for this year I'm so conscious that COVID has impacted so much on so many charities from a fundraising perspective.

"So this year is actually even more important I think that we all get out and support the charity".

More information can be found, and donations made, here

'I wish I didn't have to do this' - People sleep outside for 'Shine A Light Night'

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

  

Main image: Bobby Kerr gets ready to sleep outside for Focus Ireland Shine A Light Night 2020. Picture via @bobbykerr on Twitter

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Bobby Kerr Campaign Focus Ireland Homeless Homelessness Ireland Jamie Heaslip Norah Casey Paul Treyvaud Paula Cogan Shine A Light Night

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