There are approximately 30 homeless people in Longford at any given time
With the Midlands Simon Community preparing for its second annual Sleep Out for Simon, the issue of homelessness in Longford has been brought to the fore.
This week, the Midlands Simon Community is working with approximately 30 homeless people in Longford. They’ll do the same next week, and the week after that.
“But the issue isn’t as visible here in the county of Longford as it is in the bigger cities. You’re not going to see people sleeping in shop fronts or doorways, in any of the towns. But yet, we’re working with over 30 people each week, right through the week,” said Midlands Simon Community CEO, Tony O’Riordan.
So where are these people, if not on the streets? Why aren't we seeing them?
“I suppose it’s the nature of homelessness in Longford and the midlands region,” Mr O’Riordan explains.
“The people we’re working with might be about to lose their accommodation. They might be at risk of homelessness. They might be in overcrowded, unsuitable accommodation. They might be in hostels or shelters. But they wouldn’t have a home of their own.”
It’s estimated that, at any given time, there are 130 people sleeping rough in Dublin - that’s just one hundred more than the county of Longford.
“And those are the people who actually make it into our services. We suspect it’s even more than that,” said Mr O’Riordan, referring to the number in Longford.
In fact, he adds, the organisation has estimated that there are approximately 50 people at any given time who are homeless in Longford, with many not being able to avail of the services provided by the charity.
And that’s why events such as the upcoming Sleep Out for Simon - which takes place on Good Friday, April 14 - are so important to the Midlands Simon Community.
It's events like these that allow the organisation to help the homeless to get a home of their own as quickly as possible.
To get involved with the charity fundraiser, contact Noel Green at 087 961 5766.
The cost of helping the homeless in Longford
Only 1.5% of the Government's total spend on homelessness is allocated to the Midlands region.
That is despite the Midlands having models of support that are seen as the best in the country, and that are delivered at a fraction of the cost of other services, according to CEO of the Midlands Simon Community Tony O'Riordan.
“Last year, the Mazar's report, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, estimated that it was costing the State 20 grand per homeless person. But the cost to the State here in the Midlands is between two and three grand per person,” Mr O'Riordan explained.
“So on every indicator in terms of quality and value for money, we’re delivering. And yet the region is only getting 1.5% of the Government’s spend on homelessness.”
Because of the limited amount of State funding available to the charity, it is vital that the Midlands Simon Community raises funds however and wherever possible, to ensure the continuation of their services.
“Midlands Simon operates emergency beds for the midlands region, which people from Longford can access. And the difference between what it costs the State and the actual cost of running that service is 25 euros per bed per night,” said Mr O'Riordan.
“And that’s for 12 emergency beds. So every night of the year, we have to raise 300 euros. That’s 300 euros by 365 days of the year and that’s a very significant challenge, just for that service. And that money is just going to keep the existing services open.”
For this reason, events like the annual Sleep Out for Simon are extremely important to the organisation.
Last year's event was extremely successful, according to Fundraisng Coordinator Noel Greene.
“Unfortunately last year, it was a very bad night weatherwise, so people did sleep under shelter and we couldn’t do anything about that. But we’d encourage people to sleep outside in the same conditions as a homeless person would have to do every night,” he said, adding that should there be bad weather on the night, there is a sheltered area available if needed.
“This is only a very small insight into homelessness. When it’s finished, people pack up their bags and go home, so in no way are we saying that this is an experience of homelessness. It’s a small insight and it’s a small way of showing solidarity. The people that we’re supporting don’t have a choice,” Mr O'Riordan added.
The event will be held on Good Friday again this year, which is April 14.
“The Simon Community is a secular organisation - it wasn’t founded by a religious congregation. But it takes its name from a very religious, symbolic image and that is Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus to carry the cross.
“And the reason that the founders took that image is that homelessness mightn’t be affecting you, but all of us as a society can help people carry the cross - and it’s the cross of homelessness. And that's why we have it on Good Friday,” said Mr O'Riordan.
The Sleep Out for Simon event will take place on Friday April 14 in Connolly Barracks, with registration at 9pm.
Warm clothes are advised, as are sleeping bags, hot water bottles and pieces of cardboard to sleep on.
Those who would like to take part will be required to bring a sponsorship card on the night along with any monies raised. Contact Noel on 087 961 5766 to acquire a card.