Homelessness has always been an issue plaguing this country, and this year is no different. According to Focus Ireland, there is an astonishing 9,150 people homeless nationwide as of January of this year. A significant percentage of this figure is the student population of Ireland. But with the monstrosity that is finding reasonable accommodation, along with the sky-rocketing cost of living, are we surprised? No. Furious? Absolutely.
Last month, UCD’s St Vincent De Paul (SVP) society teamed up with Maynooth, University College Cork and Dublin City University’s respective SVP and Simon Societies to bring to the student body ‘Homelessness Awareness Week’. A week that aimed to bring forward the issue of homelessness in this country’s youth of today and provide support for those who may find themselves in such difficulty.
The week began on Tuesday evening with a panel discussion on the Experiences of Women and Non-Binary in Homelessness featuring the guest speakers Aideen Quilty (Associate Dean of Social Sciences UCD), Ena Norris (CEO of Daisyhouse Housing Association), and Clara O’ Flynn (Any time of the Month). The talk, housed in Newman’s R Theatre, saw an excellent turnout with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and many open ears.
To add a lighter air to the week, a screening of ‘The Lady in the Van’ took place on Thursday for the ‘Spice Bags and Social Justice’ Event in the Newman Building. Once again, people flocked to the showing with friends to have a great time while supporting an even greater cause.
By Thursday, UCD’s SVP society had already raised €750 with the help of student body donations and various fundraising initiatives, including a helping hand from UCD’s Dance Society. But the main – and most impressionable – event from the society was the nightly ‘Sleep Out’ where members of UCD’s SVP society slept outside the doors of James Joyce’s Library to “raise 24/7 awareness of the homelessness crisis” running rampant in Ireland’s modern society. This feat wasn’t restricted to an exclusive members-only policy, however, with all students and staff being welcome to join and take part after 9 pm every day. All that was needed was a sleeping bag, blanket and maybe a pillow.
Not only is this a commendable approach to raising real and striking awareness of the current catastrophe that is the issue of homelessness in this country, but it shows the true dedication of those willing to help. It shows that the supports they offer are truly available for use and not just for show with a wait time of two to five working days. Because they recognize that emergency and crisis aren’t on business hour terms. Real-life is twenty-four-seven.
The UCD SVP has also been encouraging the sign-up of new volunteers during this week of events and awareness, so be sure to check out their Instagram bio for links etc. Maybe make a donation or two, as the links are still open and running. But for those of us poor students really living up to the name, any time donated is much appreciated – even more so – for such a wonderful cause, for any level of volunteering.
It is always said to those who want to change the world, “start at home”. And with ‘Home’ having this ongoing crisis for too many long years now, it’s the more people that start that give light to a glimpse of a finish.
Rhoen Eate – Features Editor