Galway Simon Community, the city's homeless charity, has launched its annual Sleep Out for Simon event, and in a sign of the times, it is going virtual.
The event takes place on Friday October 2, and will see friends, families, colleagues and teammates taking part from a distance by pitching a tent in the garden, bedding down on the living room floor, or spending the night under the stars in the office car park.
This year Galway Simon is asking people from the west, whether at home or abroad, to swap their beds for sleeping bags, give up their everyday comforts as a mark of solidarity with those facing homelessness, and spend the night fundraising in a unique and powerful way.
Deirdre Treacy, fundraising and communications manager at Galway Simon Community, says through this year's virtual connection, participants will share a meaningful experience that aims to generate "awareness, empathy and understanding of the struggle of facing homelessness in our community".
"For the past four years, Galway Simon’s annual Sleep Out has made a huge impact on homeless prevention services throughout the county, and this year is set to be no different," she says.
“This is a critical time for our local community. The Covid-19 crisis has had a detrimental impact on the lives of many people in Galway. It has, and will continue to put many people at risk of becoming homeless. Our services are stretched more than ever, and with the inevitable economic fallout from the crisis looming, we are anticipating an even bigger increase in the demand for our services over the coming months."
Simon has not been helped with its two charity shops, which are a vital source of funds for its services, having been closed for the last three months. while many of its regular fundraising events have had to be cancelled.
"That’s why the funds raised through Sleep Out for Simon are more important now than ever," she says. "The Sleep Out for Simon is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and is vital in keeping our homeless prevention services running in the West of Ireland."
Deirdre Treacy is hoping the Irish diaspora will get involved.
“What makes our annual Sleep Out so special is the incredible sense of togetherness and unity that seems to fill the air. In order to recreate this intimate experience on a global scale, we will be equipping each participant with access to a digital toolkit, keeping everyone engaged and connected through a timeline of activities that will include music, storytelling and mindfulness.
"While we may not be able to take to the streets and shake buckets into the evening, we are hopeful the members of our community and the Irish diaspora will be motivated by this great cause and take part wherever they are in the world."
One hundred per cent of proceeds will go directly towards Galway Simon’s homeless prevention services in the west, ensuring the charity can safeguard this essential service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To register for the Sleep Out today, visit www.galway.sleepoutforsimon.ie