Two Portadown women will be braving the cold this Saturday night, February 27, in aid of the homeless.
Cathy Graham (41), from Killicomaine, and Debbie Webb (38), Corcrain, will settle down for the night in front of St Mark’s Church with just a sleeping bag and some cardboard to sleep on.
They are hoping their sleep-out will raise the profile of the plight of the homeless and raise money for two groups - Hope Outreach for the Homeless and Belfast Helping the Homeless.
The women have been moved by the death of a homeless man in Belfast earlier this month. He was found by outreach workers in the Donegall Place area.
And their sleep-out has been given added poignancy with the death of another homeless man in Belfast just last night (Wednesday). This is the fourth homeless person to die in the city in the past four weeks.
Cathy also has personal experience of the agony of homelessness, with her sister having been affected.
She said, “My sister and I were fostered when we were 11 and she got involved with a bit of a rough crowd. She ended up homeless for a time, living on the streets in Manchester.
“There were times I didn’t know where she was. That’s why I know it can happen to anyone. As the Simon Community says, we are all only two or three pay cheques away from being homeless.”
The women are aiming to make their night in the open air as true to life as possible, and will wrap themselves up in coats and thermals for the sleep-out which will start at 8pm and end at 8am the following morning. They will not have a tent but may have some tarpaulin at the ready in case it rains.
Cathy, a mother-of-four, said, “We are hoping people will come down and talk to us and we would welcome donations of warm clothes such as scarves, gloves, coats and shoes which we will pass on to the two groups.
This week, both women met volunteers with Hope Outreach for the Homeless and accompanied them on their rounds. Added Cathy, “My involvement won’t stop with the sleep-out. I plan to be involved long-term.
“It’s unacceptable that people are dying on the streets.”