Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has launched a campaign to provide warm clothes for people sleeping on the streets in the run up to Christmas.
The ‘Help the Homeless - Show them we care’ campaign was launched by Ms Anderson yesterday and aims to help the homeless directly as well as raising awareness of the issue.
The MEP is calling on local people to pick up a hat, scarf, pair of gloves or socks during their Christmas shopping for people who sleep on the streets. The items will be distributed before Christmas.
Ms Anderson said she was motivated to launch the campaign after an experience in Brussels. “Very close to where I stay when I am in Brussels there is a man who sleeps on the street. He is there in all weathers and I have bought him bread and other food items and I found that when I went inside I was still thinking about him and about the people who are in the same position on our own streets here in Derry,” she said.
“When I came back I spoke to people from the community and voluntary sector who are working on homelessness and also to people from the Council for the Homeless about what could be done to help.
“I also wanted to carry on the work started by Councillor Kevin Campbell when he was mayor and established a homelessness forum in the city.
“I am very conscious that homelessness is a complex issue and that there are great agencies who do sterling work in this city and I want to build on that work.
“Street sleepers make up a small percentage of the homeless but they are the most vulnerable group. They often have other complex problems and are in need of various forms of intervention but, for whatever reason, they are on the streets in all weathers and are cold, hungry and scared,” she said.
Ms Anderson acknowledged that providing warm clothing to those sleeping on the streets will not solve homelessness but said it will show those without a roof over their heads that they are part of the community. “These people are the most vulnerable members of our society and quite often they go to the margins of that society to sleep. They seek out places that are out of the way and, as a result, sometimes they can be forgotten about.
“I am asking people to show them that we care about them. By doing something so simple as buying a warm hat, a pair of gloves of socks or a scarf when they are out doing their shopping, and leaving it at the collection points, they can make a real difference to someone’s life.
“We have a great community in this city and people can show that in the run up to Christmas by helping those who find themselves without a home,” she explained.
Ms Anderson also said that the threat of homelessness is very real for thousands of people. “Behind all the statistics and figures, the reality is that we are all only two or three pay packets away from being homeless. Even missing one pay packet can lead to mounting debt which makes homelessness a real possibility if we do not have the support of relatives.
“When I see someone on sleeping on the streets I think ‘there but for the grace of God go all of us.’” she said.
Items can be left at any of the city’s three Sinn Féin offices at Rath Mór, Shantallow and Spencer Road, or at The Gasyard Centre, Corned Beet Tin, Creggan, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, Great James Street, An Siopa Ciste, Castle Street, Shantallow Residents Association, Drumleck Drive and Hillcrest House, Top of the Hill from December 2.