In 2012, five Galway business leaders ran a sleep out to highlight the worsening homeless crisis in Galway City and to raise much needed funds for COPE Galway’s Homeless Service.
The Sleep Out has taken place every year since and grown from strength to strength, garnering huge support from local business leaders every year. A cumulative €1,000,000 has been raised since 2012, thanks to the enormous generosity of the local community. We are taking a trip down memory lane to look back at the past 10 wonderful years of support.
’The Business of Homelessness: Boardrooms sleeping out to provide bedrooms’
On a cold December evening, the inaugural COPE Galway Business Sleep Out went underway. Hannah Kiely- joined by local business leaders Paul and Marie Shelly, Niall McNelis, Fintan McMahon and Gerry O’Halloran – took to Shop Street at 6pm; armed with sleeping bags, blankets, and plenty of layers. The participants, along with COPE Galway staff, volunteers, and supporters, endured the cold until 6am, raising €7,000 on the night.
In 2012 COPE Galway accommodated 101 adult women, 34 children and 228 men and worked with 347 individuals and 92 families through the Teach Corrib Day Centre. The money raised from the Sleep Out was invaluable in helping us to provide this support.
In 2013, the number of business leaders participating in the Business of Homelessness Sleep Out doubled from 5 (2012) to 10 (2013). On the night of December 6th, temperatures reached just 9°C; however, this did not deter the Sleep Out leaders from braving the cold for our cause.
In a short musing, entitled ‘A Reminder of the Night,’ Hannah Kiely recounted the events of the evening as a blend of merriment and sobriety, “knowing there are people who are really homeless- it feels rather subdued.”
Overall, in a year where COPE Galway provided 15,000 beds to 356 people, the Business Sleep Out raised €16,714 in vital funds to support these services.
In October of 2014 COPE Galway conducted a one-day census of the number of households accommodated in and supported by its homeless services and Domestic Violence Refuge. The findings showed that ‘hidden’ homelessness (people living with family and friends, or self-funding in tourist accommodation) was on the rise, due to issues such as the cap on rent supplement, with 28 adults and 27 children living with family or friends. 47 individuals were also housed in emergency accommodation, 8 of whom were children. 13 people were identified as sleeping rough around the city. In response to these findings, the Sleep Out began to gain enormous traction, with 26 local business leaders signing up to the event.
2014 also saw the event being rebranded, with the ‘Business of Homelessness’ slogan being replaced by the more simplistic ‘Sleep Out’, symbolised by the now easily recognisable crescent moon logo! An incredible €50,000 was raised and this made an immense difference in the lives of our service users.
On the 5th of December 2015, torrential rain and winds of up to 118km/h battered the West Coast; as Storm Desmond paid a visit to Ireland. On the same night, our 25 business leaders braved the weather and took to Shop Street in what was to be the most challenging Sleep Out yet. A risk assessment was carried out and several emergency plans were put in place, however luckily all participants and volunteers made it through the night unscathed! Their efforts were not in vain, and a record €122,800 was raised. 2015 saw a rapid deterioration of the housing crisis, and the essential services that COPE Galway provides were more in demand than ever. This year saw our homeless services faced with an increasing challenge. The numbers of families in need of emergency accommodation in Galway increased by 107%, and overall, we worked with 1051 homeless people during this period; including 369 children.
In 2016, COPE Galway supported 1,214 people (702 adults and 512 children) who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. This was an 18% increase in service users than the previous year.
2016 also saw the biggest participation levels in the history of the Sleep Out, with 32 business leaders turning up on a frosty but dry night. A majority of these participants far exceeded the initial target of €3,000, collectively raising over €140,000.
Our participant Q&A featured in the Galway Advertiser for the first time in 2016. These profiles provided the public an opportunity to get to know the people they were sponsoring a little more. When asked what essential item they would bring on the night, many replied wooly jumpers- or a hip flask!
In the year that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government reported a reduction in homelessness in Galway, our organisation saw otherwise. In a 2017 quarterly one-day census,
COPE Galway recorded 86 families and 197 children as living in emergency accommodation. By contrast, official figures suggested that 68 families and 154 children were homeless in the entire west region of Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. These figures appeared to overlook people sleeping rough or the growing number of families living with relatives.
A total of 28 local business owners joined in the Sleep Out this year, raising €155,000 for COPE Galway’s homeless services. This year’s event strove to highlight the plight of those excluded from official figures.
In 2018, COPE Galway supported 949 adults and 457 children in finding and keeping long-term housing and preventing homelessness within our community. Our organisation was also able to provide an extra 21 beds in our Teach Corrib Day Centre to those sleeping rough, as part of our Cold Weather Response.
The 2018 Business Sleep Out saw over €155,000 raised for COPE Galway’s Homeless Services. 28 business leaders came together to raise these funds by sleeping out on December 1st.
The funds raised by the Sleep Out in 2019 helped COPE Galway to support 949 adults and 457 children experiencing homelessness. This included providing practical and emotional supports for families living in emergency accommodation including counselling services, recreational activities and funding towards the cost of education; funding individuals to access detox and treatment services and to support education and training opportunities; and street outreach service to support people sleeping rough. 2019 saw 28 business leaders sleeping out in support of COPE Galway, raising an all-time high of €185,000!
In the year that the world came to a halt, COPE Galway kept going. Lockdowns had a detrimental effect on our service users. From March 2020, COPE Galway’s work was challenged in a variety of ways. We focused our efforts on protecting our clients, staff and volunteers, finding ways to continue to offer and safely deliver our services. Our work ensured the safety and protection of 2,616 people in Galway in 2020. Despite their own challenging circumstances, our ever-supportive business community still rallied their support for the Sleep Out. 29 business leaders took part in our socially distanced event on Shop Street and others took part remotely. 2020 was also a monumental year for the Sleep Out, as the funds raised since the first event surpassed €1,000,000. In what was a year of immense emotional and financial hardship, the people of Galway were unfaltering in their compassion and generosity and we at COPE Galway are immensely grateful for this.
Galway’s homeless and housing crisis is not abating. In December 2021, 73 families with 200 children and 121 single people availed of COPE Galway’s homeless services. 37 children spent their second, and some their third Christmas in a row in emergency accommodation.
A record number of 50 Business Leaders, from 39 organisations around Galway and beyond, brave the cold, wet weather for 12 hours on Friday the 3rd of December 2021, for the tenth annual COPE Galway Business Leaders’ Sleep Out.
In announcing the €253,914 raised at a virtual recognition event COPE Galway’s Homeless Service Manager, Sinead Carey remarked, “Seeing these 50 Business Leaders come together and witnessing the encouragement of their friends, colleagues and family, really brought home the commitment and unity of our community in supporting our work and our clients.”
In thanking the business leaders for taking part, some of whom have participated over several years, COPE Galway CEO Michael Smyth spoke of the sense of togetherness, community and pride that was palpable throughout the event.
A sincere thank you from all here at COPE Galway for the continued support we have received for the Business Sleep Out over the past 11 years. Support that, without which, we would be unable to provide essential services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Find out more about the impact of the funds raised: Impact | Cope Galway Sleepout