Tuesday 26 September 2017

Climb to the top: Fundraisers scale peaks for homeless

Lyndsey Telford

Hundreds of fundraisers have climbed nearly 12,000 feet over the last three days - helping to raise €200,000 for a homelessness charity.

Nearly 400 climbers tackled the Focus Ireland Four Peaks Challenge, scaling four of the countries highest mountains across the country's four provinces.

Director of fundraising and marketing at the charity Lisa Nicole Dunne said the challenge of the climbs was nothing compared to that faced by people sleeping rough.

"While the four peaks can be a rewarding personal challenge while helping a great cause, there are of course other greater challenges faced by many in society over the last few years which we have seen all too regularly in our work right across the country," Ms Dunne said.

"Many have lost their jobs, suffered pay cuts or cuts to hours in their employment."

The challenge, which saw fundraisers scale a total 11,937 feet, began with Carrauntoohil in Kerry on Friday, followed by Mweelrea in Mayo and Slieve Donard in Down on Saturday, and finished today on top of Lugnaquilla in Wicklow.

The climbers were split into 70 teams for the undertaking, aimed at drumming up funds to fight and prevent homelessness.

Last month, Focus Ireland claimed that homelessness could be almost halved if the Government kept its promise to hand over empty homes under the control of the state's toxic assets agency.

It said if there was enough will in the Cabinet, the Government could virtually eliminate the stark problem of entire families without a home.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan vowed to give 2,000 homes under the control of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) over to social housing a year-and-a-half ago.

The majority of them have yet to be delivered.

There are an estimated 5,000 people who are currently homeless in the Republic.

Recent official figures showed more than 160 families are homeless in Dublin alone.

A small minority of these are sleeping rough, with about 80 people on the streets on any given night in the capital.

According to its annual report published in May, Focus Ireland dealt with more than 8,000 people last year - a 7% hike on the numbers seeking help the previous year.

Ms Dunne said much work is yet to be done to tackle the crisis.

"We are more reliant on fundraising now than ever before to help support our lifeline support services and allow us to provide homes for over 650 households across Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, and Sligo," she said.

"It is great to see how even in these difficult times so many people are willing to make the effort to take part in events like the Focus Ireland Four Peaks to help charities like Focus Ireland continue our important work.

"A massive thanks to all the climbers and supporters who help make this Four Peaks weekend such a cracker."

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