Three staff at St Ronan’s College in Lurgan are taking part in a 24-hour sleep-out for the homeless this week in a bid to raise vital funds for local charities.
It’s set to take place this Friday (December 8) in Belfast City Centre to spread awareness around the rising cost-of-living and the subsequent challenges it often brings.
It’s organised by Little League Sports (LLS), who offer sixth-form sports courses in a number of schools in Northern Ireland and the wider UK. They have been working in partnership with St Ronan’s since 2017.
Of the eight staff taking part in the sit-out this year, three are from St Ronan’s College.
This year’s is the fourth annual sleep-out, with over £12,000 raised for charity since the fundraiser began.
A GoFundMe set up for the sleep-out this year has already raised over £1,600, with donations still coming in by the day.
They’ll be camping out in front of Victoria Square from 12pm today (Friday) to 12pm on Saturday morning. When midnight hits, they’ll be sleeping at the mercy of the elements with nothing but cardboard and sleeping bags.
Most of the monies raised will go to homeless charities and food banks, with the remainder going to LLS’s aspirational fund which supports pupils from socially deprived backgrounds.
Emmett Clerkin, NI Regional Director at LLS, said: “Last year was particularly cold. This year isn’t as cold but it’s going to be a wet one I think!”
He says that raising awareness and challenging stigma are the key challenges around homelessness.
“It’s a real eye opener,” he said. “One of the things I want to do is raise awareness that poverty and homelessness isn’t linked to substance abuse all the time. It can be a lack of family support, a single mum or just a poor decision.
“We’ve tried to remove the stigma from homelessness and food bank dependency to make people aware that it can happen to anybody really. Especially with the cost-of-living crisis.”
He added: “That 24 hours on the street is unbelievably difficult, but we get to go home. We do one night out of 365. A lot of people do 365 nights.
“We just want to raise as much money and awareness as we can.”