‘Empty houses would help the homeless’

Philip Webster on his sleep out recently
Philip Webster on his sleep out recently

A man who slept out rough in Lisburn one night when temperatures dropped to as low as -6 says that the experiment only makes him more determined to highlight the plight of the homeless.

Philip Webster, a father-of-two from Ballymacash, believes there are people that go unnoticed who are living rough around Lisburn on a regular basis, and in need of help.

Philip, a volunteer with Feeding Belfast charity, said he hopes that one day there will be no need for him to sleep out in the streets.

“When I was out doing the sleep-out it really opened my eyes to what it must be like to do this on a day to day basis,” he said. “First you have the cold to cope with. The night we were out it dropped to -6 and there is no way you could sleep in that even if you were covered over.

“Then there’s the people. You try and stay hidden so no one will give you any trouble. You always listen and look to see who’s about. This would also make sleeping very hard indeed.

“We walked around a lot just to keep warm. We did try and get some sleep but it was far too cold. Then you have the problem of going to the toilet.

“Thankfully we had a friend who lived in the town and we could go there but what do you do when you haven’t got that? Then there is the food and water. We had enough stuff to just see us through the night as we were given the same as the groups give out to the lads on the street.

“If you do not get any food that night you spend the next day trying to get a meal. If you haven’t had a good night’s sleep this is bound to be a very hard task.”

He continued, “When I first started helping the homeless I had no idea of the size of the issue we are facing. The amount of people on the streets of not just Belfast, but a lot of cities in this country, is a disgrace.

“I thought that if I could do something to help boost the story. I sorted out a sleep out with my friend and thought we could maybe raise £400. As it turns out we raised over £800. This money will go towards food, hot drinks and meals and clothing to them that really need it.”

Philip believes the government should do what they can to helps those in need of a home.

“We are lucky as we could go home and get into a warm bed,” he said. “We have a lot of empty houses/flats in this country. Why not make them into shelters? The homeless I have spoken to want one thing, a chance to make their life better. They want to fit in and I want to help them. I will be doing more to raise this issue and hopefully one day there will be no need for me to sleep out on the streets.”