By Pádraic Daly
Currently, there are 10,514 homeless people in Ireland, according to Focus Ireland. They put the official number of those sleeping on Dublin’s streets in November as 92. Ireland’s homeless crisis has been getting worse; in September 2019, 9,698 people were homeless. Just a year later, this number had increased by almost eight per cent.
One man who decided to take action is Patrick Fryers. Patrick set up Warm For Winter in December of last year, an initiative for leaving warm, winter clothing in public places for homeless people to take and wear.
Speaking to TheCity.ie, Patrick said: “I was halfway through my first year of college and had my eyes opened to how serious homelessness is in Dublin. I came across a picture on social media where people in another country had tied warm jackets around trees for the homeless. Straight away I knew we could do that here.
“I contacted friends and family and asked for their old winter jackets. I then chose Connolly station as my drop off location as it was sheltered under the bridge. After my first drop off, I posted it on social media and received huge feedback and support. So, with this I contacted the local Supervalu in Clones and we arranged a collection point in the shop. I had a continuous supply of jackets and was able to carry out three drops a week.”
Patrick explained: “I provide assistance for the homeless by making sure that all and everyone can avail of a warm jacket, hat or scarf when in need. I put them in a public place so that people can take them and still hold their dignity, I hoped it could be done without any stigma attached.
“The homeless figures have risen year on year, including a huge number of children and let’s not forget the hidden homeless. We need to be aware of the huge effects of homelessness including people’s mental health – especially that of the children.”
This year, Patrick’s campaign placed jackets on the Ha’penny Bridge, in the centre of Dublin, as it was much more visible to the public. The campaign’s hashtag, #warmforwinter currently has hundreds of posts on twitter. On the 6 December, Dublin City Council (DCC) went about taking down the jackets Patrick’s campaign had left on the Bridge.
“Last year I put out roughly 150 coats under Connolly Bridge and there was no objection or response from DCC. Perhaps as the Ha’penny bridge is in the heart of Dublin and is a hot spot for tourists, this may be why the DCC removed the coats.
“To date, they have made no effort to contact me and have not stated where they have put the jackets. They say they have been donated to charity but have not specified which charity, therefore we really do not know whether this has indeed happened. People donated these clothes in good faith, wanting to help those in need.”
In a statement to TheCity.ie, Dublin City Council said: “The decision was made, based on health and safety concerns, in order to avoid obstruction and congestion occurring along a key pedestrian artery, crossing the river Liffey. The items of clothing will be redistributed, to those in need through Homeless Services.
“Dublin City Council recognises the well-intentioned call to action, to which the public responded. It is the council’s duty to protect the public and prevent accidents from occurring on this footbridge, through any restrictions in pedestrian flow, particularly at this time of year when thousands of people use this bridge on a daily basis.”
DCC also stated they are “very open to coming to an alternative arrangement, recognising the spirit of giving and generosity at this time of year”, but Patrick has not heard anything from them in regard to coming to an arrangement.
Despite the reaction from DCC, Patrick is hopeful for the future of Warm For Winter: “This small campaign seems to have captured the imagination of the public. People have responded so generously and kind-heartedly. I have been contacted by concerned citizens, worldwide, hoping to replicate this initiative.”