Almost 10,000 homeless people will receive a “Santa box” filled with Christmas gifts this week after a charity successfully overcame Covid-19 challenges to run its annual appeal.
Each year Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) holds an annual “fill a Luas” event, where people are urged to donate shoeboxes wrapped in Christmas paper and filled with gifts and essential goods for the homeless.
The Santa boxes are then given to homeless people who are rough sleeping or who are in emergency accommodation, hotels and B&Bs around the city.
Last year, more than 20,000 Santa boxes were donated – but this year that fundraising effort was put in jeopardy due to coronavirus.
ICHH chief executive Anthony Flynn said the appeal was expected to only take about 10% of the norm so everything was moved online.
Mr Flynn said: “This year we’ve had to do things a little bit differently and we’ve moved things online to our virtual Santa box appeal and partnered with Expleo. What they’re doing is they’re ensuring that we have the product we need on the ground in terms of our boxes.”
The charity hopes the appeal can help recoup some of the 200,000 euro worth of fundraising it has already missed out on this year due to the pandemic, and help ensure essential gifts are delivered to those who need them most this Christmas.
The online appeal lets people pick whether the present goes to an adult or a child.
Each box will be packed by volunteers adhering to Covid-19 guidelines at its Glasnevin warehouse in Dublin. The boxes will contain gifts and essential items such as toiletries.
Donors are encouraged to include a message to the person receiving the present, and these messages are being handwritten by ICHH volunteers before they are added to each box.
Once packed, the presents will be delivered by volunteers to homeless people across the capital before Christmas Day.
“People can log online and they can donate a Santa box but that means we have to ensure that those Santa boxes get packed: We have to ensure that all those products goes into those Santa boxes and get redistributed to people that are living in emergency accommodation in Dublin,” he said.
He added that getting the project off the ground had been very, very difficult because of maintaining social distance.
“Our elves that are here working in the warehouse through the period are under a hell of a lot of stress and strain. And everybody’s doing that in a voluntary capacity,” he said.
“It’s a big, big project – a big, big effort, basically, ensuring that everything that’s needed and required for a certain age range or demographic goes into an appropriate box (and distributed).
“It’s a case of our Santa helpers are going to be here working night and day until we do ensure that everybody that needs one of these Santa boxes gets one.”
Mr Flynn said demand for Inner City Helping Homeless’s services has soared since the onset of the pandemic.
About 120 people are sleeping rough on the streets every night, he added.
“Coming into Christmas we’ve always got an extra demand on service and trying to ensure that we have what we need to to cope with that demand is always always difficult,” he said.
He added: “Christmas is such a happy time of year for so many. But it’s such a sad time of year as well for so many people that are living in emergency accommodation.
“So what we aim to do is try and put some joy into those people’s lives and ensure that they have a need and that they can cope through the Christmas period.”