Saturday 19 January 2019

Homeless charity changes Christmas appeal to accommodate children

Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) in Dublin has run a shoe box gift appeal for four years.

(PA)
(PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

A homeless charity has been forced to change its Christmas donation programme as child homelessness reaches an all-time high in Ireland.

Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) in Dublin has run a shoe box gift appeal in conjunction with the Luas and Transerv for four years.

In previous years, the group would ask for shoe boxes with items suitable for rough sleepers, offering dinner and haircuts aboard a Luas for a Christmas event.

Now the group will be hosting Santa in his grotto aboard a Luas tram, and is appealing for small toys and gifts for homeless children.

Anthony Flynn, who founded ICHH, says the rising number of children and families that come to his organisation for help meant the event had to change.

“The day was, and is, about engaging with people who normally would not have a good Christmas, a warm home and a small gift,” he said

“We want to give them a feeling of worth and compassion.

“Since we started, we have seen a 463% increase in child homelessness, so we’re changing the theme to make it more family orientated.

“The problem is getting worse, the demographic of homelessness has completely changed.

“We want the kids to have somewhere to go, we have a number of kids living in hotels and emergency accommodation, who have to walk the streets every day and don’t get somewhere warm until 8pm when their accommodation opens.

“We want these people to bring their kids, they can get fed, Santa will have his grotto on the tram and each child will get a present.”

The Christmas event will be held on December 6, and Mr Flynn says he has received donations from schools, youth clubs and large corporations.

The group is aiming to collect 40,000 shoe boxes for the appeal for adults and children.

“From kids’ perspective, a small toy, a hat and gloves, or a gift voucher,” Mr Flynn said.

“We’ve asked people to donate a voucher for a coffee shop for a rough sleeper, practical things that will be useful.

“We’re asking people to think outside the box, but we want to ensure that kids want the presents too, if people want to include a message too, maybe from them wishing them well.”

September’s figures for Ireland state that 9,698 adults and children are currently homeless.

One in every three homeless people in Ireland is a child, and Mr Flynn says his organisation has had to adapt quickly as the problem develops, including installing a soft play area in his headquarters.

“We counted 114 people sleeping rough in Dublin on Monday night, in the last 24 hours we’ve had to maximise outreach teams to do day support,” he said.

“People were drenched and slept out last night in the tail end of Storm Diana, and the same people will be this evening.

“We had 150 people through our doors this morning soaked through, looking for a hot drink, dry socks, and a warm place to sit.

“We’re not seeing a reduction in people on the street.

“The system is in turmoil, there doesn’t seem to be any forward planning from the minister’s perspective.”

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said: “To support vulnerable rough sleepers all local authorities have developed their Cold Weather Initiatives, and the department has been working with them to ensure these plans are in place and ready to be activated.

“These arrangements ensure that additional temporary beds can be brought into use across a range of existing services and facilities for singles and couples, who need them during periods of bad weather.

“Providing additional accommodation for rough sleepers is essential.”

Press Association

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