Ballymena-born singer Lilla Vargen is urging people not to ignore those who are living on the streets as the Province’s homeless crisis deepens.
The London-based singer will be back home in Northern Ireland over the coming months for a headline concert and an event at Stormont which will see thousands of people sleeping rough for the night.
The video for her new single ‘Why Wait’, filmed in Dublin, highlights the ongoing housing crisis – a subject close to her heart.
She said: “The numbers are pretty shocking in Ireland for the size of the place. In the last year in Belfast alone homelessness has gone up by 35%. In Dublin there’s around 10,000 homeless.
“These are real people. It’s something that needs to be talked about. We sometimes brush this kind of conversation under the rug.
“We’re living in a very wealthy place where we all generally have roofs over our head, food in the cupboard. Sometimes we take that for granted.”
Lilla and her family have lent their support to tackling the issue: “My family worked with councils across Northern Ireland helping put together packs of blankets, scarves, gloves, and thermal underwear for people who were sleeping rough.
“You see things that are quite hard, but you also learn the most amazing things just from talking to people, and they’re so glad to have these conversations.
“It’s difficult to imagine how hard it must be sitting there on the streets day by day, with everyone avoiding you.”
The former Cambridge House pupil, who spent free periods in the music room writing songs, said: “Now more than ever we have to get these people the help and support they need so that the spiral doesn’t happen at all.
“I don’t know the answers to all these things. I just want to try to talk about it and see what could be done.
“I would urge people not to ignore the person on the street, to talk to them. There is a reason these things have happened to them. Talking to someone might be the best thing that has happened to them all day.”
Lilla’s debut EP ‘We Were Thunder’ is released on November 29 on FutureKind. Before that Lilla will play McHugh’s bar in Belfast on November 25.
The Big Sleep Out takes place around the world on December 7. In Northern Ireland the event is happening in Stormont Estate.
Deirdre Canavan, head of services, Depaul Northern Ireland said: “Depaul is privileged to be the partner of The Big Sleep Out in Belfast and Dublin. We would encourage people from across Northern Ireland to sign up and join us in bringing the world’s attention to the growing issue of homelessness.”