To highlight the work they do in preventing homelessness in the county and to draw attention to the issues faced by those in this difficult situation, staff at First-Housing Enniskillen are hosting a ‘Big Sleep Out’ at The Diamond, Enniskillen this winter.

On Friday, December 13 from 6pm to 6am, the service’s staff members, along with some service users and Enniskillen Food Bank, will sleep out on the street in a bid to raise awareness of homelessness in Fermanagh.

They will also be raising funds to support those who are homeless and to prevent their circumstances from deteriorating to the point where they are forced to sleep rough.

Maria Thompson, co-ordinator at First-Hosing Enniskillen, who will be taking part in the sleep out, said: “We’re choosing to do it for three reasons. The first is to draw people’s attention to homelessness. The second is to do some fundraising and the third is, we work in the homeless sector so it’s just to remind ourselves what some of our clients are facing. It brings it back to us why we are doing the work we are doing and what our clients actually go through when they find themselves in the position where they will have nowhere to go for the night.”

When asked what she believes will be the most challenging part of the sleep out, Maria commented: “The challenging part will be the cold, particularly because it’s the winter. It will also be the unexpectedness of it, who will approach you, will you feel safe, it’s just the whole uncertainty of it.”

Adding that she expects those taking part to experience exhaustion, Maria said: “Can you actually have a sleep when you are in a public place like that? Can you actually go to sleep and feel comfortable or confident?

“That would be some of the problems that we would expect to encounter.”

Noting how there wouldn’t be a huge amount of street homelessness in Fermanagh, Maria highlighted that homelessness isn’t always visible: “It’s more a form of hidden homeless here.”

“Homelessness is not always visible; there are people in our community who live in accommodation they cannot call home; they may be sharing with family or friends, sofa surfing or living in derelict buildings, all of which are referred to as hidden homelessness,” explained Maria.

She continued: “Due to their circumstances they face many hardships including poor physical and mental health, hunger, poverty, financial and sexual exploitation and addictions, all of which are compounded by difficulties in accessing support services.”

Members of the public are encouraged to stop by on the night to find out more about the work of First-Housing Enniskillen.

Those who wish to support the cause can make a financial donation by visiting the First-Housing Enniskillen Facebook page, and follow the Just Giving link or by calling First-Housing Enniskillen directly on 02866 342585.

“All donations received will help us raise much needed funds to deliver services in Fermanagh and help us tackle homelessness at its source,” Maria concluded ahead of the challenge.