A group of almost forty Trinity students is expected to be sleeping outside the Nassau St. entrance of College tonight until 8am on Friday in order to raise money for the Peter McVerry Trust. The charity was founded by Fr. Peter McVerry who has worked in inner-city Dublin since 1979 dealing with the issue, starting with the opening a small hostel to provide accommodation for homeless boys aged 12-16. Since its creation, the charity has continued to work on tackling the rise of homeless citizens and the relating problems of drug abuse.
Talking to Trinity News Kieran MacNulty, president elect of the SU, said that organising such an event had been a priority of his while working as SU citizenship officer: “I live on campus and it didn’t really sit well with me that.. I was living basically in the middle of the city and maybe ten, twenty metres away somebody was sleeping rough.” Trinity’s Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) had attempted to organise a similar event last year but came into difficulty.
He stated that people were enthusiastic about the event, with places being taken up quickly: “We booked out the places in a day.” Each student has been asked to raise €50 each, along with collection buckets which the group hope will gather a substantial amount as students and staff arrive in the morning.
The event is being organised by the SU and Trinity’s FLAC and will be the first of its kind, with hopes to make it an annual occurrence. MacNulty hopes that tonight is just a starting point, with the SU and FLAC looking to “build on it in future years”, adding that there’s a possibility to extend it to a 24-hour event.
The McVerry trust released an outline of policy priorities ahead of this Friday’s general election. This includes a call on local authorities to review any current land plots or unused or derelict private properties that could potentially used to deliver social housing to those who have suffered most from the housing crisis. An increase in rent supplements in order to invest in preventative methods in tackling homelessness and allocation of resources to support children in residential and institutional care settings, which are direly lacking, are also strongly advocated for by the group.
MacNulty stated that while they “didn’t pick the date with the general election in mind” holding the sleep-out on the Thursday before polling day was significant, considering the lack of engagement with the issue on the campaign trail: “while homelessness has got a decent bit of coverage, the politicians don’t seem to be talking about it.”
The McVerry trust also outlined that they are calling for 30-50% of all planning social housing to be allocated to special needs groups, which will be crucial in “reducing reliance on expensive and largely ineffective emergency accommodation”.
The “Humans of the Election” project carried out by Newstalk, in collaboration with Humans of Dublin, recently saw the story of a young family valiantly coping while living in emergency accommodation being highlighted. The family had been evicted after their landlord sold their house: “There is no place to go outside to play so we usually just stay inside. The hotel is far from school so we have to wake up very early in the morning and we don’t get back till very late.” They had contacted Newstalk afterward to say they had been notified by the proprietors that they had a week to find alternative arrangements as they were closing down.
While MacNulty acknowledge the sleep-out was “something very small” in the broader context, they are hopeful that it can expand in line with similar initiatives such as the one in Belvedere College and sleep-outs being organised as part of the “Shine a Light Night” campaign by Focus Ireland.