1 night. 92 people. 11,000 pounds.
It’s hard to sum up the right words to convey my thoughts on last night’s sponsored sleepout organised by mhs Homes in aid of Emmaus Medway and The Alzheimers Society. On the one hand, it was a fantastically successful event which raised a lot of money for some very worthy causes. Everybody participating seemed to be in good spirits despite the bitterly cold weather, and I am sure that the money raised – £11,000 – will be put to good use by the charities which will benefit. All well and good, and congratulations to everyone involved!
However, my feelings on the matter are tempered by the actual experience of what it must be like to sleep rough out on the streets, night after night. Homelessness is not a class issue, nor is it restricted to any age, race or creed. It can hit anyone at anytime, and through no fault of their own. Bereavement, redundancy, illness, relationship breakdown – all of these and more could lead to a life of relative comfort and security being stripped away in a short space of time.
It wasn’t until we climbed into our box at about 2am that the grim reality of living out on the streets started to hit home. Up until that point my wife and I had access to hot food and drinks, some live music, toilets, and I think it’s fair to say there was something of a festival atmosphere about the event. Groups of people sat around chatting, or playing cards, and many managed to keep themselves warm around the numerous makeshift braziers set up around the car park. We were lucky that the rain held off and there was little wind. Small mercies.
But it was cold. Temperatures dipped down to about 1°C just as we were trying to get settled for a couple of hours sleep. But sleep wouldn’t come. As I lay there trying to get some warmth into my body, I couldn’t help but reflect on what it would be like having to go through this every night without the relative safety net which was just metres away. Could I cope? I just don’t know. I was lucky that I had my wife with me and we were able to encourage each other through the night. But what of others who don’t have that support, who regularly face much harsher and challenging conditions?
I really can’t say, but it is clear that we need to do all we can to continue addressing this issue and support those who need our help. We are fortunate here in Medway that we have a good network of support for those that find themselves on the street through no fault of their own. But many aren’t so lucky. Last night gave me just the briefest of glimpses into their lives and it is an experience I shall not forget for some time.
I’d like to end by saying a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me and Tracy, and also well done to everyone else who gave up their time to either organise or participate in this event. I am sure the £11,000 raised will be put to good use by the charities which will benefit. There’s still time to make a donation via JustGiving – Click Here