Health

Homelessness charity brings Big Sleep Out to Stormont

Stephen Clements and Cate Conway of Q Radio help launch the Big Sleep Out for the Simon Community
Gail Bell

TAKE a stroll through Belfast city centre and you will undoubtedly be struck by the growing problem of homelessness – a very worrying, visible phenomenon on our streets in this so-called age of plenty.

It brings the statistics shockingly to life in an up-close and personal way when you stumble across someone on a cardboard mattress during your lunch break, so the Simon Community's upcoming One Big Sleep could not be more timely.

Each year, the charity supports up to 3,000 Individuals via 22 services throughout Northern Ireland – 35 per cent of whom are under 25 years old.

Their work is vital in the face of the numbers: over 18,500 people presented to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as homeless in 2016 to 2017 and statutory homelessness in the north has risen by 32 per cent within the last five years.

To help raise awareness of the mammoth task at hand and to raise much-needed funds, the Big Sleep Out has been organised in the grounds of Stormont Estate for Thursday November 1, when supporters can swap their comfy bed for a sleeping bag for one night in solidarity with those for whom it is a way of life.

"Although One Big Sleep Out won't be able to replicate the real emotional and physical difficulties of truly experiencing homelessness, it will show some of the realities and will challenge everyone who takes part," says Joanne McCallister, Head of Income Generation at Simon Community.

"Every day, the Simon Community ends homelessness for someone in Northern Ireland, but we can only continue to do this with support. We are asking people to sign up for One Big Sleep Out, along with their colleagues and friends, and help raise the funds needed to help us continue delivering specialist support to the thousands of people experiencing homelessness here."

The event, sponsored by Blue Clarity and supported by Q Radio, will include a free barbecue and live entertainment before bedtime. Minimum sponsorship of £65 is required and a fund-raising pack with all the details is available from Simoncommunity.org

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