Nearly 200 people slept rough in O’Moore Park’s GAA grounds in Portlaoiose to raise awareness and much needed funds for the Midland Simon Community.
Well over €20,000 was raised for the Portlaoise branch of the Midlands Simon Community with reports that at least €6,000 more has been pledged for the event held last weekend.
“We have already €20,000 raised and lodged. With sums pledged on line and cards not in we calculate there is about another €7,000-€8,000 still to come. We are delighted with result, both in terms of raising awareness and fundraising,” said Michael Martin of Laois Simon.
On standby and providing lessons in CPR were a team of seven people from the Order of Malta who continued to patrol the grounds all night to ensure the safety of the volunteers. Music was provided by Portlaoise Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann who received a big round of applause for doing so.
People began bedding down for the night from 11pm onwards in sleeping bags and cardboard sheets.
The CEO of the Midlands Simon Community Tony O’Ríordan was impressed.
“The results and the support was just fantastic. It’s great that nearly 200 people in Laois have a deeper understanding of homelessness. We dealt with 30 people in Laois this week alone and managed to re-house just one. This region only receives 1.5% of the government’s expenditure on homelessness; we feel that we are being punished for trying to do good. We deliver our services to those who need them on a shoestring budget. You would think that the government would be rewarding us with more funding instead of penalising us. It is extremely frustrating.”
Cardboard sheets along with a multitude of sandwiches were provided by prison staff at the Midlands Prison. The prisoners made the sandwiches for the volunteers.
Pat O’Sullivan is the assistant governor at the midlands prison.
“Homelessness is unfortunately a reality for many of the lads in the prison. We give them as much as we can inside but when they get out the supports aren’t there. They have no one to love, nowhere to stay and nothing to do. Nothing is being done in advance of their release by Laois County Council, only on the day of release. That’s why we try to let them out at the beginning of the week so that they can access services. We even have to re-apply for prisoners medical cards because they are means tested. Surely their means are well known while they are in prison.” he said.
Portarlington man Ronnie Ridgeway said, “I am thrilled to be a part of this fundraiser. It’s great to see so many young folk here. They will be very important in raising awareness. Nobody, nobody should be homeless in today’s society. It’s disgraceful.”
The organisers wish to thank everyone who helped in any way.
Should you wish to donate to the Laois friends of Simon you can make a lodgement directly into its Portlaoise AIB bank account. The account number is 27834015 and the sort code is 93-32-79. Funds raised in Laois stay in Laois.