Sleeping outside on the tarmacked ground of a carpark in the city, with nothing but a piece of cardboard and a sleeping bag – in the middle of November – when it’s raining… sound like fun?
Thousands of people sleep rough and are homeless in the UK alone, and this figure has grown year after year. There are also a lot of young people on the streets – through no fault of their own. Whether it’s mental health issues, an unhappy or dangerous home life, or something else which has resulted in homelessness, these people need our help. Which is why when I heard about the “Sleep Out” on social media, I knew I wanted to help instantly.
Lots of “Sleep Out” events take place all over the UK, and they involve groups of volunteers who are sponsored to sleep outside overnight. The aim is to raise money for homeless charities, and also raise awareness.
I persuaded my colleague, Elliott, to agree to take part in the Sleep Out with me, on behalf of GML, and we started our Virgin Money Giving page (which you can still donate on!). On the day of the Sleep Out, we had raised more than our target of £200, which was great! We started to get ready to leave my house to drive to the Sleep Out location, at Clapham & Collinge Solicitors‘ carpark. We were trying to decide what to wear – I am not one for wrapping up warm usually, but I wisely decided to put on five pairs of leggings, just to be safe – and I’m glad I did!
We arrived at the Sleep Out location, looking like a pair of Michelin Men, armed with nothing but our sleeping bags, some cardboard, and wearing a LOT of clothes. We were instantly welcomed by the Benjamin Foundation employees, and the other volunteers taking part were all so friendly and approachable. There was instantly a sense of community amongst us all, when we had set up our sleeping areas for the night. A local busker came along to sing us some songs, we were shown a video about the Benjamin Foundation, were provided with hot dogs by local butchers, Archers, and Mustard TV came down to interview us. When all this was over, we stayed up chatting to the other volunteers, who all had different reasons for helping the Benjamin Foundation.
One woman in particular really inspired me and made me feel like it was all worth it. Her name was Lindsey and she was sleeping near myself and Elliott, so we talked a lot. She shared her story with me of how the Benjamin Foundation had helped her son so much – she spoke so fondly of her son, and it really made me think that this type of thing can effect anyone, no matter how loved they are. And it was so lovely to hear that the Benjamin Foundation, and Lindsey, have helped her son to get back on track to having a great life. I would like to thank Lindsey for also looking after me that night, it was great having a mum next to me, who had come prepared with bin bags to protect our belongings, lip balm, and an umbrella (which we didn’t even end up using!). You inspired me.
When we felt tired enough to fall asleep, we got tucked up in our sleeping bags, and eventually managed to drift off for a while, when I was woken by the pattering of rain on my sleeping bag. It was actually quite relaxing, until I noticed the inside of my sleeping bag getting slightly damp! The rain cleared up after a while, I got a few hours’ sleep, and before I knew it, we were waking up to the smell of bacon sandwiches! We tucked into our breakfast, then packed away and said our goodbyes to the brilliant people we met. “See you next year!” – Is what most people were saying to one another.
The moment we got out of our sleeping bags in the morning was the coldest we had been throughout the whole experience – and it just made me think – imagine doing this every night, imagine how hard it would be to live like this. Especially because most people on the streets sleep alone, without the support from other people to keep them company and keep their spirits up, and without people bringing them food.
The whole experience has made me want to help more people. Next time I walk past a homeless person, I will buy them a coffee and something to eat, and I will let them know that there are people and organisations out there who care, and that they are not alone. I would also love to do more work for The Benjamin Foundation and get involved in some more events, and definitely next year’s sleep out I will be recommending to all of my friends and family.
£16,000 was raised from the Norwich Sleep Out, which is absolutely fantastic – well done everyone, we’ll see you again next year!
GML are also helping out at the Norwich Open Christmas event as St Andrews Hall this year, collecting donations from GML Consulting, Accredita UK, and Arista Resourcing, and dropping off the donations on Christmas Eve, ready for the organisation to give to the homeless and lonely people in Norwich this Christmas Day.