Derry politicians brave the bitter cold

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A sleepout to raise awareness of homelessness has been hailed a success by organisers.

The sleepout, which saw 15 people brave the cold and rats to sleep on the street for a night, was organised by Damien House.

Those involved included staff from the hostel and local MLAs Raymond McCartney and Mark H.Durkan.

Gerry Burns, from Damien House, said he was “delighted” to achieve his aim and raise awareness of the issue.

“Everyone involved in the event will now have a changed perspective when the term homelessness or rough sleeping is used in the future, ”.

Gerry said that while it was a very cold night it gave him a “very real appreciation of what it means for somebody to sleep rough and has increased our determination to keep doing what we are doing”.

He said that thanks to the excellent services provided in Derry, someone in real need should never find themselves sleeping on the street.

However, Gerry added that it was useful to keep the issue of homelessness in the public eye.

SDLP MLA Mark H.Durkan experienced a very sleepless night in the car park in John Street, but relished the opportunity to meet people who are homeless.

“It gave me an opportunity to speak to them and to watch the people who work with them on a nightly basis such as the night support service. It was really humbling”.

He said that while he knew there was a strategy in place in the city to prevent people sleeping rough, he didn’t realise just how good it was.

“The opportunity to see that first hand reinforced my desire to make sure these services are sufficiently resourced in the future”.

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney added: “I would to like thank everyone involved in organising Wednesday night’s sleep out to highlight the issue of homelessness and those people who came along on a very cold night to lend their support to this initiative.

“Whilst our sleep out was for one night only and was to bring a focus on the issue, we have be very mindful that there are many groups in our city working 365 nights a year helping people who are homeless.

Much of the work these groups do is unseen, it is invaluable and we are all indebted to them for that”.