By Rose Barrett
For Paddy Fryers and his girlfriend, Sophie Graham, helping the homeless has become a twice weekly routine of hanging coats at key locations in Dublin city.
His Warm for Winter charity has seen thousands of coats and jackets donated to help those who need them most to get through the cold months.
Paddy, 28, places the coats on hangers at the Ha’penny Bridge to encourage people to help themselves – and he’s bowled over at the level of support.
The NUI Maynooth student told Dublin Gazette: “It started in winter 2018 when I began working in Dublin. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so many homeless on the streets, I found it overwhelming.
“I happened to be on Facebook and saw where people had tied coats around trees in parks for the homeless – in Buglaria I think it was – so I decided to do something here in Dublin.
“I sent a photo to my college group chat and got donations from class and family members. Then I went round to Connolly Station bridge where there is some protection from the elements and posted a handmade sign: ‘If you need one, please take one. If you want to help, please hang one up!’
“When I went back the next morning, ALL the coats were gone, except for the hangers and the note. I realised then how bad the need was for this service.
“I made a clothing appeal in my home town of Clones, Co Monaghan and the surrounding area. Donations just flew in.”
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Paddy and Sophie expect to increase the drops now as Christmas approaches but unfortunately, with Covid-19 restrictions, he is unable to take on more volunteers.
“At the moment, we are doing two runs weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays, dependent on weather,” he said.
“We keep an eye on the weather forecast in advance and we only hang up if the weather predicted is to be dry. The homeless are so appreciative, we never feel in danger, these are people who simply have hit on hard times and have been down on their luck for years.
“I meet regulars Francie, Darragh and Owen, grand chaps who are so glad of the coats and extra layers.
“Sadly, children’s coats go straight away. On my second ever drop, I hung an 18 month old baby-suit and a woman pushing a buggy took it straight away. We are only there for 15 minutes but people come straight away and collect.”
Paddy is mindful of the predicaments facing homeless people.
He said: “We all face hardships in our lives and it’s often how we are equipped to deal with it as to how we get through life. Not everyone is equipped with a good education or solid family supports and certainly, not everyone gets off from the same starting blocks, financially or emotionally.”
Similar projects are now running in other cities across Ireland – and Paddy’s model has even been adopted as far away as Michigan in the US.
He said: “It’s great to see it picked up. Anyone can do it in their area, and remember, we have to store the clothing 72 hours in a location before we deliver them, under the current restrictions. All coats and jackets must be clean, have all buttons and zips working.
“Anyone can do this, hang them after 4pm but make sure it’s a dry evening,” said Paddy who concluded by wishing everyone safe passage through the pandemic and where you can, to spread a little kindness.