More than 1,500 people across Ireland are expected to “sleep out” on Friday night to raise awareness of the country’s homeless.
The event, Focus Ireland’s annual “Shine A Light Night,” will see business leaders, companies and private individuals join together to focus attention on the country’s issue of homelessness through sleeping at places ranging from businesses to braving the elements outdoors. The one-night affair is part of a larger effort to raise €1.5 million this year to combat the plight that thousands face daily.
“I suppose this year is particularly poignant because recently we’ve seen the homeless figures go back up to record numbers of over 10,800,” said Conor Culkin, the communications officer at Focus Ireland.
These individuals, which include more than 3,000 children, are living in emergency accommodation like former hotels, Culkin told Babylon. Living in these small spaces can be traumatic for children as there’s little room to do things like play, and it can be hard to have friends over, he said.
“Homelessness for anybody is wrong, but when a child is homeless that’s the biggest shame of all, when you have a child who doesn’t have a place to call their home,” Culkin said.
Business support for Shine A Light Night
Business leaders, companies and members of the public can sign up to participate on Focus Ireland’s website. More than 1,500 people had signed up for Shine A Light Night as of Thursday morning, with more than €490,000 already raised.
Events for business leaders are taking place in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, where attendees will hear first person perspectives on homelessness as well as how their companies can help with the issue, before sleeping outside for the night.
More than 55 business leaders supported Shine A Light Night when it began in 2012, according to Focus Ireland’s site. Culkin credits the “care and compassion towards homelessness in this country” for the business involvement from early on.
Everyone knows someone affected by the housing crisis, he told Babylon, which leads to homelessness.
“And there’s a real awareness among all the business leaders that homelessness is wrong,” he said. “And no matter what your belief in the world is, we can all agree that, like I said, if a child is homeless, that is wrong.”
One of the businesses that hosts a company-wide sleep out for Shine A Light Night is Bord Gáis Energy, wrote Erica Brown, a communications consultant from Teneo. The utility company has sponsored the annual undertaking for four years and remains proud of its efforts with the campaign, she wrote.
“Homelessness is one of the most pressing social issues in our society and by giving just one night to sleep out in our gardens or homes, we can help show solidarity with Ireland’s homeless community and raise vital funds for Focus Ireland in the fight against family homelessness,” Brown wrote.
Bord Gáis has donated roughly €2.4 million to Focus Ireland and has pledged to donate another €2 million to fight family homelessness through 2025, Culkin said. The company’s involvement has helped assist more than 7,0000 families and prevented more than 458 from becoming homeless, he told Babylon.
And this partnership is looking to help thousands more.
“Over the next five years, Bord Gáis Energy and Focus Ireland will work together to assist a further 10,000 families through advice, information and support programmes, and directly prevent 1,000 families from ever entering homelessness,” according to Focus Ireland’s site.
The organisation’s two-pronged effort includes preventing people from becoming homeless and helping individuals who are unhoused “move on” from it, Culkin told Babylon. Most of the money raised goes toward providing people with information and advice, he said.
This support can be found at places like Focus Ireland’s Family Centre in Dublin. The facility provides families with a meal, a place to do laundry as well as information and advice, Culkin said. The organisation has six main offices across the country.
Beyond showing they care and helping to raise money, participants have a good time at Shine A Light Night each year, Culkin told Babylon.
“I think the best part of fundraising is when you can do a fundraiser, raise awareness, raise funds but also have a little bit of fun as well,” he said. “And so many people have great fun when they do it.”