VIDEO:

Growing number of Laois homeless is hidden because they 'couchsurf' rather than sleep on street

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie


Portlaoise charity PATH talks to concerned Laois teenagers at Comhairle na nÓg AGM

Over 120 Laois secondary school students heard the sad truth about homelessness in Laois and Dublin, at the AGM of Laois Comhairle na nÓg.

At the invite of the comhairle, Portlaoise Action to Homelessness (PATH) volunteer Billy Fitzpatrick came to speak at the AGM in the Midland Park Hotel on October 19.

He answered questions on homelessness posed by the worried teenagers, as seen in our video.

He confirmed that the number of people homeless in Laois has "escalated" but is hidden because they "couchsurf" rather than sleep on the street in Dublin.

The numbers are still growing in Dublin he said, where the core group of seven PATH members, with five casual volunteers, travel every Saturday night to distribute hot food, toiletries and essentials to the homeless.

"We are now meeting families that would be put up in hotels. So they walk the streets, they are getting used to us so they come to meet us, sometimes with two and three children. It is very sad," Billy told the students.

Asked by one student when their help is needed most, he said it was winter.

"Christmas is a very difficult time, it's cold, dreary, they have no family, it's a very lonely time. And going into January, it is a very sad lonely time. We just share with them, and we talk with them," he said.

PATH is asking the students to make plastic bagged packs of treats, toiletries, hats, scarves, gloves, sleeping bags and water. The can be left in to Portlaoise Parish Centre, or Brown's Animal Feeds beside Telfords Portlaoise.

The AGM in the Midlands Park Hotel on October 19, had students representing almost every secondary school in Laois, as well as youth groups Youthreach, Mountmellick YDC and Foroige.  

They gathered not just to address homelessness, but the mental health of students and how to improve it. The day was facilitated by Youthwork Ireland Laois and Carlow IT students.