When UCD SVP hosted its annual sleep out on Homeless Week, Caitriona Farrell braved the elements to investigate the yearly campus event
The area outside the James Joyce Library proved the perfect set up for Homeless Week. With a larger amount of people traipsing towards the building than usual due to final exams looming, the display really did highlight the social problem at hand. As UCD’s SVP auditor, Conor Tonry, put it: “I think it’s always a big problem that seems to be overlooked by a lot of people. On a night like tonight, there will be over 100 people sleeping rough in Dublin city centre.”
The sleep out kicked off on November 15th and lasted until the Friday of that week, when the cardboard tiling that the concourse had become accustomed to was removed.
It may not have been one’s ideal dose of beauty sleep, but the beauty of the sleepout was that the ordeal was all in the name of charity. This experience of putting my feet in someone else’s shoes was like nothing I’ve ever done before. However, my shoes were well insulated, and when I did manage to squeeze them on, it was hardly as if I was living the severe conditions which homeless people are forced to endure every night.
Seven layers later, I was as warmed up as a sunburnt, hefty penguin. I peeled off two layers for later like a Christmas pass-the-parcel game. You’d think I’d be jealous of the students leaving the library at midnight, their brains having reached saturation point ready for a bed with a mattress but no, I was having an enjoyable time and there was a feel-good factor that went hand in hand with doing the sleep out.
Ross Hannon, a third-year Arts student, explained there were everyday things he didn’t miss for a second: “I haven’t had the urge to watch TV at all this week,” he says, before adding: “You’d learn more in a group of 15 people than you would in a lecture for two hours.”
I had two hours sleep that Thursday night, because I was soaking up the whole social aspect. The sleep out was banter central and the music was ample. At one point, different musicians had moved to various points outside the library to play. It somewhat resembled Oxegen in microcosm, given that different musicians had their own mini stages, while a site to rest your head down wasn’t too far afield.
As well as the social aspect of the sleep out, the other reason for it was as clear as our breath in the cold air. UCDSU Ents Vice-President, Jonny Cosgrove, spoke of how: “There’s a fun side and really why you’re here. We’re all on the same page”
Deciding to go to sleep at 5:15am when the amount of people wide awake had dwindled down from approximately 80 to four meant the region of maximum body heat in the centre of the herd was fully taken. Being on the outside meant being more exposed to the real homeless situation and it was quite cold.
We definitely take our beauty sleep for granted. It is fair to say that there are so may virtues related to sleep; you are more vigilant, and have the feeling of being as bright as a button in the morning. So those early risers that made it in for the early college starts were an inspiration. They bring to mind those who are subject to these conditions on a daily basis.
Moreover, on Thursday night, students from TCD, NUIM and DIT journeyed to outside our library to make a statement in unison. Kevin Conlon, a previous auditor, describes the effectiveness of the event, as “we weren’t just another poster on a wall or another talk in a lecture theatre, we were a very visible, very untidy presence outside the library”.
Hopefully everyone’s sleepouts were teamed up with a lie-on at the weekend. The week was ultimately a success, creating awareness of homelessness and raising the figure of €4,500 for the St Vincent de Paul Society. All in all, the experience was amazing and feeling fresh from catching up on some sleep, I’ve already begun contemplating on completing the full week of the sleepout next year.