Focus Ireland Sleep Out Article

22-November-23
Focus Ireland Sleep Out Article

On Friday 13th of October 2023, thirty TY students with nine of their teachers, slept outside in the school courtyard as part of the Focus Ireland ‘Shine A Light’ campaign. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about homelessness in Ireland.

The event was organised by TY Year Head, Leanne Moore. Leanne said “I decided to organise the Focus Ireland sleepout when I learned that 4,000 young people are currently homeless. The idea that young people, the same age as some of our students, might be facing homelessness was heartbreaking.” In the build-up to the event, we had Focus Ireland come to the school and give a talk to all the TY students about the vital work they do. Students were then tasked with fundraising. Over the course of a few weeks, students raised an incredible €5,968.

On the night, students pitched tents and unpacked backpacks full of supplies to sustain them through the night. They had thermal layers, hot water bottles and an endless supply of snacks. The local Domino’s provided free pizzas and staff were extremely generous in dropping off home cooked pastries and flasks of hot chocolate. Unlike many homeless people, there was no fear of going hungry that night.

There was a great atmosphere on the night. Students were giddy at the prospect of sleeping over in school. An official photographer from Focus Ireland came out to take pictures and Josh Crosbie from Newstalk FM interviewed students to get an insight of their experiences. At around 10pm there was a short rain shower. TY teacher Shauna O’Flaherty noted that “it only rained for five minutes but it was enough to soak all their stuff. Students quickly learned that damp clothes are so much colder than dry ones!”

In an attempt to keep spirits high, students engaged in Just Dance battles and started running laps of the courtyard to keep warm. Temperatures had dropped to a chilly 6°C. Shauna O’Flaherty said “4-6am were the toughest hours. It got the coldest it had been all night and my toes started to go numb. Students and staff were fading fast and we took turns standing in the warmth of the reception of school before going back out again.” Around 5am most students found the cold unbearable and many opted to sleep inside.

Students welcomed the sunrise with a new perspective. They were looking forward to going home to a warm shower and a warm bed. TY student Sarah Conefrey said “The sleep-out was an eye-opening experience that completely altered my views on homelessness. I never fully understood how severe the life of a homeless person was until the sleep-out. Even so, nothing we endured during the sleep-out could compare to the constant struggles homeless people have to deal with daily. This made me appreciate everything I have, such as a house, my bed, and my private space.”

TY teacher Suzanne O’Callaghan reflected “I really found the experience very interesting. I would never have really understood how the weather and in particular, the cold, could really affect your mental health and your body physically. Not being able to have a deep sleep and having to be in a constant state of awareness is something which must be very difficult for homeless people who have to sleep on the streets, and I feel better able to empathise with them after the sleep out event.”

By participating in the event students were made to step out of their comfort zone and into a deep sense of solidarity and community, whilst raising vital funds for Focus Ireland to continue its work towards ending homelessness.

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