The Light Is Still Shining For Focus Ireland by Nicola O’Neill, MD at Harvest
‘Shine a Light’ Night 2017 – Not an Adventure but a Reality Check
Some of you may have already seen my LinkedIn post on my ‘Shine a Light’ sleep-out experience. In the past few weeks since the event, I had some time to reflect on my experience and would like to share some additional thoughts and insights with you. I am also working on possible next steps that we could take together as learning and development professionals, to help Focus Ireland in a real and meaningful way as learning and development professionals.
‘Shine a Light’ night 2017 was extremely informative in terms of letting us know what is really happening with this crisis. I now have more questions than answers and I am left with a growing concern that the plans and initiatives in place are not enough to meet the scale and pace of the homelessness problem.
I know that homelessness is:
• In the direct path of an 18 year old teenager coming out of care
We heard stores of young people left at homeless shelters on their 18th birthday. Why?
Why is there no plan for these individuals when there is knowledge and insight of their exit date from the care system for many years?
• In the direct path of anyone who is in private rented accommodation
We heard that 69% of people and families presenting themselves as homeless, have faced challenges with private rented accommodation. What is the plan to increase the volume of private rented accommodation and manage the increases in rents?
• In the direct path of children
We heard that the number of homeless families presenting on a monthly basis in Jan 2014 was just over 400. This increased in Jan 2017 to over 1,200 (a figure that is already superseded in Oct 2017). Even on the night itself, 13th October, we heard of two newly homeless families, who were going to spend the night in the Garda station. Volunteers at Focus Ireland were unsuccessful in securing temporary accommodation at short notice for these families and could only return to the task the following day. How fast can housing accommodation be built or found? What is the impact, if any, of the significant investment allocated to emergency accommodation, a necessary approach but a very short-term focus?
The team at Focus Ireland and other similar charities are doing fantastic work. I am struck by the commitment of volunteers and the strong willingness of everyone to help. Focus Ireland’s goal for the ‘Shine a Light’ 2017 campaign was to raise 1 million euros and they are well on their way to reaching their goal. It was a privilege to be involved in such a project.
It was an emotional night and I learned a lot about homelessness and the people who are living through this crisis every day. I met amazing volunteers and had a lot of fun, it is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I plan to continue my involvement with Focus Ireland and explore where our learning and development community can help to make a real difference and effect real change.