Joanne O’Riordan: Cork City back homeless initiative
From athletes to chefs, we all have our part to play in helping raise awareness
City Cork manager John Caulfield, speaking at the launch event for the Focus Ireland Big Rebel Sleep Out, said: “Creating awareness of the issue of homelessness, helping the families Focus Ireland works with locally is so prominent.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The usual hustle and bustle in Bishopstown training centre for Cork City FC is to be replaced with the hustle and bustle of new sorts. You see, Cork City FC have given their backing for the Focus Ireland Big Rebel Sleep Out which will take place at their Bishopstown training base on April 14th.
Whether we like it or not, football clubs and its players have a huge social role. The fact is the club with greater ties to the communities and greater links to schools, kids and other community clubs often thrive the most. In the ruthless, globalist footballing world, such considerations seem old fashioned.
What fans, owners, managers and players want is success, not just this weekend and this season, but forever. A team having a local heart is no more than a sweet anachronism. But in a league like the League of Ireland, often overlooked for its small-minded nature, it’s this mantra of having a local heart is what matters.
There are many statistics for homelessness, and current figures show the homeless and housing crisis continues to escalate with 9,104 children homeless across Ireland. While we all read this wondering how can we possibly help out, it’s important to remember that anybody can become homeless. Unlike norms in society, homelessness does not have a gender, race, class, disability or not. The scary thing is it can strike at any time.
The issues that face children who are homeless are astounding. According to Focus Ireland manager Rebecca Reynolds, “The homeless and housing crisis is deepening, with children and young people the most severely impacted. Over 3,000 children across Ireland including children here in Cork city and county, the housing and homeless crisis is a shocking reality. The most significant group of people amongst those who are homeless are four years or younger.
“Every aspect of a child’s life is impacted, from play to education to diet. However, thanks to the hard work of Focus Ireland staff based at South Mall in the city, we can support families as they seek to exit homelessness. We also prevent families from falling into homelessness in the first place. We are now asking the generous people of Cork to come on board, show solidarity and raise funds for those that need them and be part of the Big Rebel Sleep Out”.
The effort that Cork City FC has done to help raise awareness is something that must be lauded. Reynolds said: “This is a great community event in collaboration with a great community club, and we are very grateful to Cork City FC for coming on board and supporting our first Big Rebel Sleep Out, which we plan to make an annual event”.
Speaking at the launch event, Cork City manager John Caulfield said: “We are proud to support the Focus Ireland Big Rebel Sleep Out and delighted to host it here at our Bishopstown Training Ground. Creating awareness of the issue of homelessness, helping the families Focus Ireland works with locally is so prominent.
“That’s why we are calling on the men, women and children of Cork, including our thousands of supporters, to consider this initiative. The Rebel Army certainly back us week in, week out, and if they could consider backing Focus Ireland for one night, from 8pm till 8am, it would make a huge difference to those impacted by homelessness.”
This is not the first sleep-out organised with athletes in Ireland. The sleep-out arranged by past and current GAA players was an enormous success in creating awareness and generating much-needed finance to the homelessness organisations. While the GAA usually is route 101 into the hearts of the community, Cork City FC are the first League of Ireland team to donate their training grounds for the event.
So, I encourage the people of Cork to support this cause and help out as much as you can. People always ask me how do I be an activist and my response is simple: an activist is anyone who cares about something and has a talent that they’re willing to put toward it. Every single one of us needs to prioritise what it is that touches our heart most.
What I always tell people is, I could teach you about the law, I could teach you about the issues occurring today – but I can’t teach you how to have heart. You see, we don’t need a movement full of experts. We need people who care deeply to stand up and offer what they have because there’s a role for everyone.
You make music? Make some for the movement. You cook? Organisers need to be fed. You teach self-defence or yoga? Help people heal. You’re an athlete? Use your platform to raise awareness.
It’s not about everyone trying to become the next Martin Luther King jnr because he had clergymen and journalists and artists like Harry Belafonte. It’s about how we connect to our neighbour and offer our skill set. As Mr Belafonte has said: Don’t pay me back – pay it back to the cause.
The event begins at 8pm on Saturday, April 14th. Go out and pay it back to the cause.