Dublin Black Santa Service
A total of €36,500 was handed out to local charities at a special service in St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, yesterday (Sunday February 11). The money was the proceeds of the 2017 Black Santa Sit Out which took place in the run up to Christmas and the speaker at the service, Alice Leahy of the Alice Leahy Trust, paid tribute to all who help out and contribute to the annual appeal which has become a feature of the capital city.
The charities that benefited this year are: the Solas Project, Protestant Aid, the Dublin & Glendalough Refugee Project, Alice Leahy Trust, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Peter McVerry Trust, the Salvation Army, Dublin Simon, the Samaritans, Discovery Gospel Choir, Focus Ireland, the Laura Lynn Foundation, Here2Help and PACT.
During the service Alice Leahy thanked all who contributed to the appeal and all who strive to make the world, and in particular Dublin, a better place. She spoke of the work of her organisation which is not grant aided and is funded by unsolicited, voluntary donations. No money is spent on PR or fundraising.
“Our philosophy is that every human being is a unique individual. We strive to provide a secure and welcoming environment,” she explained. Alice went on to describe a three hour period on January 22 last when 21 people attended, 14 of whom were non Irish nationals from nine different countries. They came from sleeping in tents, doorways, parks and broken down cars. Fourteen people had showers and 11 sets of clothing were given out. Skin and feet were treated.
During the month of January the Alice Leahy Trust had 369 consultations with people from 22 countries. In the month 266 people had showers and 222 sets of clothing were given out. Thirteen new people attended but Alice stressed that they may not necessarily have been new to homelessness.
“We accept people as they are and recognise that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We aim to ensure that people get their statutory entitlements but also that there is a greater understanding of homelessness. Homelessness is not something that can be easily treated and people cannot easily be reprogrammed and put back into society. People are complex and have varying needs. There is a clear danger that much of the wider issues around homelessness can be ignored. There is no one size fits all solution,” she explained. She warned against seeing homeless people as mere statistics and added that the one night only beds system was totally inappropriate.
Alice observed that the ‘bread shelf’ in St Ann’s was a reminder of the people queueing for food at the Capuchin Day Centre. She recalled the ministry of Billy Wynne who set up the Samaritans in Dublin and said that loneliness was hidden but widespread in Dublin adding that church groups could assist in reaching out to people who are lonely.
After the service, the Vicar of St Ann’s, Canon David Gillespie, thanked Alice for her contribution to the service. He pledged that as long as there was a need for the services provided by the Alice Leahy Trust, Black Santa would continue to support them. He also thanked St Ann’s caretaker, Fred Deane, for his consistent commitment to the Black Santa Appeal and all from the parish who provided hospitality for the many visiting choirs.
Geoff Scargill of Protestant Aid thanked the Vicar, Fred and all at St Ann’s on behalf of the charities who benefited. Their effort changed the lives of many, he said.
2017 marked the 17th year that the Black Santa Sit Out has taken place outside St Ann’s in the days before Christmas. During that time the appeal has raised well over €500,000 for charities. There are no administration charges and the collectors and choirs that join the sit out all give their time free of charge.
The Black Santa sit out is modelled on a similar appeal, which has been run by successive Deans of St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast for many years. It became known as the Black Santa appeal because of the long heavy black cloaks worn by the clergy to keep out the cold.