On the evening of February 11, a total of 42 Midleton CBS student volunteers from 4th and 5th year braved the cold and the rain as they staged a sponsored “12-hour Sleepout” on the CBS grounds in aid of the Cork Simon Community.
The “Heroes for the Homeless” as it was called, was aimed at raising awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness and gave participants an opportunity to experience some of the struggles of homeless people. Cork Simon visited the school on two occasions during the previous week to conduct workshops with the students prior to hosting the event. Approximately half of the sleepout group travelled to Cork City as part of their “Heroes” experience to walk the streets and visit the familiar hangouts and gathering places of the city’s homeless. Their experience helped reinforce the reality of what homelessness is actually like for those trapped in its grip.
Upon returning to the school the boys joined with the other student “Heroes” outside the entrance for the sleepout experience. In the early hours of the morning all participants were provided with hot soup and bread in a simulation of a Soup Kitchen experience before they were given an opportunity to move inside the school building for a few hours sleep on the bare floor on cardboard, on mats and sleeping bags – much like in a squat or a homeless hostel. At the conclusion of the event every participant was given a breakfast roll and tea at 8 am before they washed and put on their school uniform to face the normality of a regular school day.
Students quickly realised how difficult it was for them and just how it would be for a homeless person to try and function somewhat normally in a job or occupation while sleeping rough every night.
The students had roughed it for just one night in a controlled and relatively comfortable environment and found it difficult to manage next day. It was now easier to understand how alcohol or drug addiction or mental health issues or a combination of all could quickly lead to a chaotic lifestyle on the streets.
The “Heroes for the Homeless” event forms part of a national campaign for schools in the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (formerly Christian Brothers Schools) which was launched by Fr Peter McVerry a number of weeks ago in the Edmund Rice Centre in Waterford. Called “One Campaign for Change” it aims to advocate for the homeless, to raise awareness and to gather as many signatures as possible over the coming months from students and their families across Ireland to a petition calling for an end to the homeless crisis in our country. The One Campaign intends to use social media as much as possible as a means to reach the youth of Ireland and get them involved.
The One Campaign will conclude on May 5th, the feast day of Blessed Edmund Rice, when it is planned to have representatives from all participating schools throughout the country hand thousands of signed petitions on behalf of the homeless to representatives of the newly formed Government to address the homeless crisis.