After the closure of the UCD Campus in March, the UCD Students’ Union (SU) donated the rest of the perishable stock in the SU shops local charity Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH).
The SU shops found themselves in the position of many other retail stores forced to close as they had a lot of perishable stock that would not keep in the coming months. Some of this stock was recalled and redistributed to other stores that remained open but the remainder was given to ICHH. In mid-May, ICHH collected these goods from campus. ICHH provides outreach teams to homeless people in Dublin and these teams give food, hot drinks, water, toiletries and sleeping bags to those in need. They have continued to do this during the coronavirus pandemic, in spite of all the difficulties this has posed.
This is not the first time that the SU has donated to ICHH, as over the years they have organised other collections for them before as well as some fundraising efforts. Brian McLoughlin, head of communications at ICHH, said that the charity was very appreciative of the SU’s support, especially as they are a non-funded registered charity. The out-going SU President, Joanna Siewierska stated that they chose to donate to ICHH because they knew that they are a local and reliable charity that does brilliant work. They were certain that the food given to ICHH would be distributed to those in need quickly. Siewierska added that she felt both the SU and ICHH share the same wish and that is to see an end to the housing crisis in this country.
In a recent interview with The Irish Times, a spokesperson for the charity said that they would usually have a larger number of outreach teams with bigger numbers out on the streets of Dublin but in order to align with social distancing restrictions, they have had to reduce the number of teams and members within them. The team members are always in full PPE and now they are not only providing people on the streets with essential goods but they are also helping to ensure that they can be safe from contracting COVID-19 by helping them with hand washing and tent hygiene.
Brian McLoughlin noted that when the lockdown began in Ireland, they did notice a decrease in the number of the people sleeping rough on the street. At that time, the outreach teams were helping 80-90 people per night. In the past few weeks, this number has increased to 100 people per night and even in one instance 122. The reasoning behind this seems to be that many people feel safer sleeping rough on the street than in a hostel, where social distancing is impossible. These figures are not entirely representative of the number of homeless people there are in Dublin city centre – these are just the numbers the ICHH teams have located and engaged with. There are quite likely many more homeless people in the inner city.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, there were more ways to support the work of ICHH. When the pandemic passes, the charity will be looking to recruit new volunteers again. In the past few months, they have been unable to recruit new volunteers because the induction training required cannot be completed under the social distancing regulations. Before the pandemic, the charity accepted second-hand clothes donations but because of the potential risks of infection this now could cause, they have had to stop accepting these types of donations.
In the meantime, ICHH has outlined two ways to support them. The charity encourages people to raise awareness about the charity on social media by sharing their posts. The second way to help is by donating to the charity individually or organising wider fundraising efforts for ICHH. ICHH is a charity that does not receive government funding and as a result, they rely on fundraising efforts, all of which have had to be cancelled this year because of COVID-19. Some of the alternative fundraising efforts ICHH has suggested, which can be organised remotely, include Zoom quizzes or completing a sponsored 10 km run at home. Online fundraising will be essential for ICHH this year so they can continue to do their work especially with much uncertainty over when this pandemic will pass.
Brigid Molloy – Reporter