O.N.E. (Óglaigh náisiúnta na hEireann)
Client: O.N.E. (Óglaigh náisiúnta na hEireann)
Title: Sleeping Flags
Date Of Campaign: March 2019 - Present
Background: Around the world, no group treats its country's flag with more reverence, or risks more for it, than the military. Ireland is no different. But despite this, its Defence Forces veterans receive little recognition or official support when their service ends. This leaves many destitute and homeless - an invisible group made even more so by the worst homelessness crisis in the country’s history.
Idea: To draw public awareness and support for their plight O.N.E., a homeless veterans charity, contravened official protocols around the treatment of the Irish flag, turning it, a symbol of national pride, into the universal symbol of homelessness - the sleeping bag. Veterans took to the streets, steps, and doorways of historically significant locations around Ireland in these specially-created ‘Sleeping Flags’, creating an unmissable spectacle that sparked a national debate about what mattered more - a flag or the people who gave everything for it.
Results: In 2019, O.N.E. wanted to raise enough income to cover the running costs of their 3 hostels – matching their 2018 income of €819,322. They hoped to modestly exceed their operating costs to improve services and to open a new hostel in Cork. In the end, with a budget of just €32,000, the Sleeping Flags activation exceeded all expectations. The campaign was extensively covered by every national TV, radio station, and newspaper in Ireland. O.N.E. was suddenly on the map. Sleeping Flags was even raised on the floor of the Irish Parliament on February 14th, with Deputy Joan Collins saying: “It must be extremely embarrassing to the Government, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the First Dáil (Irish Parliament), to see army veteran using tricolour themed sleeping bags, now dubbed “sleeping flags” to highlight the issue of homelessness among ex-service personnel.” O.N.E had never had a public platform like this. The increased profile led to increased bottom line income and so much more: • The OPW (Office of Public Works), who were previously looking for €50,000 for an old social welfare office in Cobh, Cork, sold it to O.N.E for a nominal €1, and the government granted the €200,000 needed to turn the building into a hostel and drop-in centre that will become a home for 5 veterans. • Within 48 hours of the Sleeping Flags launch, O.N.E had received a 4,540% increase in direct public donations to their site YOY. Total 2019 income hit €966,216, more than €146k in 2018, an +18% increase. Income from central government/local authorities increased by +23% YOY and income from donations increased by €288,794, a whopping +123% increase YOY. Government grants totalled €235,000: • Including €50,000 from the States dormant bank accounts fund. • The ESB (Electricity Supply Board) generation fund was moved to give a 3-year commitment of support, kicked off by a €10,000 grant to upgrade lighting in the hostels. • Dublin Bus gave over advertising space on its +1,000 fleet to O.N.E. • The Thomas Meagher Trust adopted O.N.E as one of their 5 charities to be included in an education pack for primary schools, so children will be made aware of the work they do and prompted to donate. • 2 separate hospitals committed to providing free and ongoing dedicated veteran care programmes in addition to donations. The figures tell the story of success - but not the human impact. In its 68 years of existence, awareness of O.N.E has never been higher. The attention Sleeping Flags garnered has helped the charity forge stronger relationships with critical state providers such as the HSE (Health Service Executive) and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive that will ensure resources and income streams long into the future. In the year before COVID, the increase in donations has already impacted positively on the lives of the staff and veterans in very simple but important ways: • The staff have been trained in mental health awareness • They have been able to increase staff salaries to living wage levels• The Dublin hostel now has a full-time counsellor on site to help the veterans • A meeting room in the Dublin hostel has been transformed into a day room for the residents to enjoy time together and they’ve redecorated the ground floor. Kitchen, bathroom and decoration upgrades have proceeded in their regional Athlone and Letterkenny hostels. The most seismic impact of all is that since Sleeping Flags O.N.E has been able to shift from merely focusing on keeping the lights on to being able to grow. In 2021, the Cork hostel will open, keeping 5 more veterans off the streets every night, so they have a safe space to rebuild their lives with support.