GAA | Hundreds of GAA stars to sleep rough this weekend

Homelessness has risen by 24% in Ireland in the last year.

It’s a problem which just keeps getting worse.

This Saturday, 350 current and former intercounty GAA players in 12 towns and cities on both sides of the Atlantic will sleep rough on the streets in solidarity with the Irish homeless.

The ‘Gaelic Voices for Change‘ movement – organised by the GPA and the WGPA – has raised over €119,000 for a variety of homeless charities in Ireland ahead of Saturday’s sleep-outs, which will take place in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, New York, Boston, Belfast, Carlow, Naas, Portlaoise (Dec 15), Sligo, and Wexford.

Each sleep-out will include some guest speakers, music and song, and some food and hot tea and coffee for the homeless who wish to join the players.

I spoke to former Meath star Joe Sheridan, who has also organised a Santa Fun Run in his local club on December 23rd to raise funds for the project, about the fantastic cause.

“It’s about getting the awareness out there, and about people seeing the devastating effects it (homelessness) is having on so many people across the country,” the Seneschalstown clubman said.

Joe got involved in the project when he was contacted by the GPA, and said he was glad of the opportunity to help raise awareness for the issue, and stressed the importance of giving back.

“The GPA contacted me and asked if I’d like to get involved. Any time you can give a hand out, and use any sort of awareness and profile, it’s good to give back.”

The group’s initial focus is on the escalating housing and homeless crisis, and their aims include generating solidarity, funds, awareness, and action. Players from a wide variety of clubs and counties, such as Brendan Maher (Tipperary), Chrissy McKaigue (Derry), Michael Darragh McAuley (Dublin), and Gemma Begley (Tyrone) are just a few of those involved in the group.

“With the GAA community, it’s such a wide scope, and you can reach out to so many different people. It’s incredible the effect it’s having already, there’s a lot of media attention. We’re trying to get attention from all over the country. It’s crazy how far afield it has gone.

“People really understand, especially hard this time of year. It’s hard, even the thought of people sleeping rough and on the streets… it’s very hard to take. The generosity from everyone has been incredible.”

The proceeds raised by ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’ will go to a range of charities including the Peter McVerry Trust, DePaul, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre, Cope Galway, Thomand House and Novas in Limerick, and the Welcome Organisation in Belfast.

Ireland now has 3000 homeless children, the highest rate of child homelessness in Europe (ISPCC), and youth homelessness has risen 93% in just three years in Ireland.
50% of Ireland’s homeless population are under the age of 24, and there are now over 8,500 people homeless in the country.

“It’s really sad, to be fair,” Joe continued.

“There’s money all over the place, and to think there’s so many young people – and families in general – that are without homes, it’s shocking to see that this is going on in the 21st century in Ireland. We’ve got to make sure that we realise how serious the situation is at the minute nationwide, and the consequences for families.”

“Obviously, you’re looking at the hierarchy – the politicians – to make some sort of move. I know there is a lot of good work being done, it just seems to be a bit too slow at the minute, so if we can try to speed it up, we’ll try to help out as much as we can, and use our voice in the most positive way.”

You can donate to Gaelic Voice for Change sleep-outs here, and contribute to the Seneschalstown Santa Fun Run here.

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