Twenty-nine people from the local business community will sleep on Shop Street over 12 hours tomorrow in COPE Galway’s ninth annual Business Leaders Sleep Out.
As pandemic restrictions begin to ease, Sharon Fitzpatrick, COPE Galway’s Head of Development, confirmed that this year’s sleep out will go ahead in its usual location on Shop Street.
“Safety measures around COVID-19 challenged us to do things differently this year,” said Sharon.
“Participants will be divided into small, separate pods, with thorough hygiene and social distancing measures in place.”
Sharon thanked the participants, saying that the charity has faced unprecedented challenges in responding to and addressing the needs of those who are homeless locally.
“I’d like to thank the 29 local business leaders who have been working tirelessly for many weeks to raise funds for our homeless services.”
COVID-19 has shone a light on the vital role front line services for homelessness play in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of many in our community without a home.
Since the onset of the pandemic, COPE Galway has had to reconfigure some of its operations to ensure stability for those they work with and that safe and good quality emergency accommodation is available to those who need it.
The ongoing shortage of suitable and affordable housing continues to be a challenge as the local organisation supports people to move out of homelessness and to secure a home of their own.
In 2012, when the first Sleep Out took place, COPE Galway emergency accommodation stays for families were averaging less than one month at a time. Today, some families have spent over two years in emergency accommodation.
COPE Galway has had to find new and different ways to stay engaged with the people they support as many other support services now operate remotely via telephone or online.
Martin O’Connor, Assistant CEO of COPE Galway said: “While the wider population adapts to an intense period of technological learning this year, this is dependent on people having access to that technology and the know-how to work with it.
“We are concerned that many of those we work with are inadvertently further disadvantaged by the move online of services and virtual viewings.”
The Business Sleep Out is COPE Galway’s largest fundraising event, raising €850,000 over the past eight years.
Sharon Fitzpatrick says that these funds have been vital in ensuring that we have the resources to continue providing support to individuals and families who are at risk of, or experiencing homelessness in Galway.
“This Christmas there will be children, teenagers and adults who will spend Christmas in a hotel room or B&B – for some, this won’t be their first Christmas to do so.
“Awareness and fundraising events like the Business Sleep Out are an opportunity for us to do something about unacceptable situations like this,” added Sharon.