The annual Belvedere College SleepOut to raise money for charities working with the homeless, and to raise awareness about the issues around homelessness, will take from 22-24 December, 2017. And the students from the SleepOut17 committee (Conrad Oppermann, Cormac Yalloway, Aaron Coleman, Eoghan O’Hanlon and Kevin Owens) have been talking to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications.
In this interview they talk about their soup runs across the city, even during the summer, to people sleeping rough. Most importantly they stress the friendships they develop with the homeless people they get to know and spend time with. One student, Cormac, talks about the shock he got when visiting a family living in one room in a hotel. They had a son, just like him trying to study for his leaving cert in very difficult conditions.
The boys also talk about the scandal of the ever-increasing numbers of people losing their homes, across every strata of Irish society. And they tell the plans they have for this years SleepOut and the celebrities who will be joining them in two locations; outside the Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin 2 and at the GPO, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1.
Since 1983, past and present pupils have been sleeping out on the streets of Dublin, every Christmas, raising funds for a number of charities including the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland and Home Again.
In recent years social media has played a big part in raising funds for, and awareness of, the home homeless. You can take a ‘selfie’ and make a ‘selfie’ nomination and post it on their Sleepout17 facebook page, using #sleepout17. Celebrities Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell are joining in the ‘selfie’ campaign. You can also follow the campaign on twitter: @belvosleepout, and on Snapchat.
The committee also has their own website where you can make a donation online. And finally, there’s still the most popular way of gathering funds – the good old fashioned bucket collection on the streets, where passersby have proven incredibly generous year after year. Last Christmas’ total came to a record-breaking €225,000 and the students of SleepOut17 hope to break that record this year. Read below the letter from the boys on the committee, sent to various media outlets around the country.
LETTER FROM BELVEDERE STUDENTS SLEEPOUT17 COMMITTEE
We are writing to you as students of Belvedere College S.J in Dublin 1. We wish to draw your attention to a situation that is both a national crisis and a national outrage There are 3,194 young people under the age of 18 who are currently without a home according to official numbers. This is the highest it has ever been in the history of the Republic.
There are some people who see privately educated students like us as completely oblivious to the real problems facing modern Ireland. And yes, most of us are in a privileged position in society. But we do see, and we do care. And it would be totally irresponsible of us not to fight for those whose rights have been taken away – those whom we and society at large have failed.
During the month of October, 77 young people became homeless, and the current trend suggests that figure will rise monthly. It’s an epidemic that is destroying people’s lives. The boys from our school who do a soup run all through the year continually remind us that behind each statistic is a person with a name. They not only have to deal with the normal stresses associated with growing up – state exams, school life, social life – but they have to do so without having a place to call home.
We cannot watch more of our peers become homeless and do nothing about it.
Our school is run on a policy of “People for Others”. It’s part of the Jesuit ethos and it’s what inspired twelve boys from the college to set up what has now become the 34th Belvedere Annual SleepOut. Last year, with the ever-reliable support of the public, SleepOut16 raised a record €225,021.61. More information can be found on our website- www.sleepoutdublin.ie
This year again, over 100 students, teachers, past pupils and parents will be sleeping out in Dublin’s inner city to raise funds and awareness for Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust and HomeAgain. These three charities are fighting against the epidemic that is homelessness. We are hoping that the same generosity of passersby will lead to another record-breaking collection.
Eighteen babies were born into homelessness last year. They spent their first day without a home. Children need foundations as they develop. A real home is more than just four walls, it’s a safe haven, a place where children can really be themselves without anxiety or a sense of insecurity.
A home also comes with friends from across the street, warmth at night and a sense of belonging. These are necessary things in the development of a child. We cannot begin to understand what it must be like not to have a house you can call home. Nor can we believe that the state is simultaneously experiencing increased economic growth and increasing levels of homelessness.
Fr. Peter McVerry SJ said recently that “We are beyond crisis, and Ireland has tolerated a dysfunctional housing system for far too long.” We couldn’t agree more. It truly is an emergency.
Conrad Oppermann, Cormac Yalloway, Aaron Coleman, Eoghan O’Hanlon and Kevin Owens
Students of SleepOut17