Shining a light on homelessness
People from all walks of life, and all ages, slept out in Wexford Park on Friday night as part of a Focus Ireland initiative to highlight the plight of homelessness.
'Shine A Light' is a nationwide event but whereas in previous years it was largely confined to Dublin and Cork, this year, under the guidance of local Focus Ireland Regional Fundraising Coordinator Cathryn O'Leary, a number of sleep-outs popped up all over County Wexford.
She explained that in the past year, Focus had helped 88 Wexford households, including 77 children. The demand for their services had increased dramatically in the South East, she said.
Innovate Wexford Park was the venue for the Wexford town event and 34 people turned up, with sleeping bags in tow, to experience life on the street. The youngest participant was a ten-year-old girl, who was accompanied by her mother.
It is estimated that over €10,000 was raised but money is still to come in to the organisers.
Ms O'Leary explained that presentations were given early in the evening on the work that Focus Ireland did before people found their spot along the walkway between the stadium and the carpark. The event saw people from all over the county taking part.
Ms O'Leary said: 'I spoke to people afterwards about the experience and they said that it really opened their eyes. I think people find themselves being very humbled by it. It's not just a fundraiser, it's much more than that.'
She spoke of how one girl remarked that she could pick up her sleeping bag, go home and have a shower but the homeless did not have that option.
Ms O'Leary added: 'I was delighted with the numbers but I think the storm turned some people off. I think it was a very valuable experience and I hope we can grow it in the years to come. I was very impressed by the people in other communities who came forward to host their own sleep-outs. It was an amazing night where the Wexford community really shone bright in their stand in solidarity with people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.'