WHEN former Mayo footballer Trevor Mortimer left Ireland to go to work in West Africa in 2011, he never expected the homelessness crisis in this country to make such an impact on him when he moved home permanently three months ago.
But seeing the huge number of people now homeless on the streets of so many major cities in Ireland has compelled the Shrule native to ‘sleep out’ in Galway city next Saturday, December 16 – along with over 150 other former and current inter-county footballers – to raise awareness and funds for the homelessness crisis.
The initiative is being organised by ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’, a new player-led social movement comprising of volunteers from all four provinces in Ireland who have come together to form a community action initiative to shine a light on the important social issues.
“When I came home, the last thing I expected was that I would be listening every day about the number of people living on the streets of Ireland,” Mortimer told The Mayo News.
“The last thing anybody wants to see or hear about is people sleeping in the streets in a Western economy, in to all intents-and-purposes, a rich country.
“Obviously there are people struggling too, but if you compare Ireland to half the world, we have very little to complain about and it’s [homelessness crisis] unbelievable really.”
Although next weekend’s venture will break new ground for the former Mayo football captain in Ireland, working and leading teams in the mining industry in countries like Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Ghana gave him the opportunity to give something back during his time abroad.
“My [work] partner was very much involved in charity in Africa, so it was easy for me to get involved in a little way out there,” he said. “He had a foundation set up that provided homes for people that didn’t have them, clothes and food centres.
“He’s a top guy, and to be honest, there’s no greater feeling than helping people out.
“So I’m looking forward to it [sleeping out], it should be fulfilling, and hopefully we can help in some way.
“Let’s be honest, the housing situation in Ireland, if the right procedures are put in place and everybody gets involved, it shouldn’t be that hard to solve,” he added.
“And I know it all comes down to finances and legislation needs to be re-jigged… and to be fair the powers-that-be are trying to do what they can to solve it.
“But at the end of the day, what’s more important than this?”
Both the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and the Women’s Gaelic Players Association have pledged their support to the help the most vulnerable in society.
According to Focus Ireland, there has been a 24 percent increase in homelessness over the past year in Ireland, and Mortimer is hoping the influence inter-county GAA players have will help with the drive.
“The GAA reaches into every corner of the country and I suppose GAA players have a unique standing in all communities,” he said. “Everybody knows them, youngsters look up to them and if we can help raise the awareness of homelessness and generate funds for the charities, it’s all positive.
“At the end of the day, it’s not putting any of us out. It’s a little bit of work to try and lend a hand to the people that are fighting the problem on a daily basis.”
All funds raised next Saturday night from the various ‘sleep outs’ across the country will go to homeless charities, including the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland and the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin.
The ‘Gaelic Voices for Change’ group are appealing for any kind of help on the night, in any of the ‘sleep out’ locations across the country. You can also donate online.
YOU can donate to the cause by logging on to https://gaelicvoicesforchange.everydayhero.com/ie/trevor-mortimer-solidarity-sleep-out-page-make-a-difference. The link is available on Trevor Mortimer’s Twitter page @trevor_mortimer