(Sorry for bad quality, didnt get any pictures myself, this is stolen)
I write this perched in a half-on-half-off-my-seat position, due to the pain of sitting properly, having spent the night on a freezing cold floor. Good times. Black and blue, but good times. This post will be an account of the Homed Sponsored Sleepout, which for those of you that don't know, was an event where about 90 Leicester students slept rough in Leicester City Centre for one night ,to raise awareness about those homeless people who have to sleep rough every night, and what they face. Any sponsor money raised went to Action Homeless, a charity whch tries to get homeless people back into housing, and give them some independence.
- 6pm- Myself and Sarah got down to the city centre, where most of the group were already sat around the clock tower, with lots of cardboard laid out. We set up with Tamsen and Emma, my flatmates who I'd roped into it :) Everyone who took part got a Homed 'Where are you sleeping tonight?' T-shirt, as you can see in the photo. Team Orange! :D We got loads of press people, and attention from passers-by, which was the aim really, and a lot of people donated which was very cool.
- 8pm ish- it started to get dark and a little bit cold. The Salvation Army donated blankets, which was awesome! I felt it was time to layer up, so added my purple hoody ( :D :D), a pair of gloves, and my blanket to the four layers I had on already. Ahem. Toasty warm. Roundabout this time a homeless man and his dog stopped by and sat down with us. The dog was appropriately fitted out with a Homed t-shirt. This was adorable.
- 9pm- Salvation Army people said we could come to the centre in groups of ten, and they'd prepared hot soup, shepherd's pie, and sandwiches for us! This was lovely of them. My hands were frozen by this point, and I've never appreciated tomato soup until last night. Damn. Another man who was homeless, and uses Action Homeless services befriended us (particularly Emma, ahem). He told us that the night before, he'd slept rough, and had been moved on by police 11 times in one night :| That was depressing. He also told us we were in for a shock, and he'd woken up the other night to find a layer of frost on his mattress. It's a horrible thought, that people usually have to face this alone.
- 10pm- Dark, and the chill was setting in. People started laying out sleeping bags to keep warm. The man we'd met settled down to stay with us for the night, and another man, who was about sixty, stopped to talk to us, and said he was homeless too. Some of the committee offered him food, and sat him down to talk to him. It was quite sad to see how grateful he was- it's not as though we did anything particularly special for him, but Emma said it makes you wonder how he's treated normally, if he gets emotional when people offer him some company, and something to eat. Both men slept with our group for the night- it was the one time they could do so without being moved on, because we were there for a valid reason.
- Half 11- Rain scare! It started raining quite heavily, so naturally, everyone panicked, picked up anything they could grab and ran for cover under the shelters of the shops. We weren't allowed to set up outside a certain perimeter by the council, though, so it was either don't-get-comfy or come-back-into-the-rain ¬_¬ Damn that council. It stopped raining 5 minutes later, thank God, but the drizzle was on and off the whole night.
- 12am- Officially halfway through the sleepout! The last few people were walking through the city centre, but we were still attracting some interest. I'd got huddled up in my sleeping bag by this point, because I was frozen, despite all my layers. There was a horrible cold wind that got inside the bag and froze my face numb- serious ouch. One of my legs was reeeally hurting because I'd had it tensed for ages without realising. However, despite this, my bag made an alright, albeit rock hard pillow, and I was kind of okay. I managed to sleep for about half an hour, but spent the rest of the time awake, just for the sake of it. I was surprised by the number of people who were asleep- quite a few were snoring like they'd never left their beds.
- 2pm- At this point, it was really quite dead, and I was sat up, shivering with my teeth chattering, all huddled up in a blanket. Sarah couldn't sleep due to people incessantly talking next to her, Tamsen had dropped off quite nicely, and Emma was wide awake. Malcolm, the older homeless man, decided he didn't get on with the younger guy, so moved over to Sarah's side to sit with her. They were fast friends by the end of the night- this was rather cute.
- 3pm- Random people who had finished their work shift at this time came over and donated loads of money and told us we were doing a great job :D Woo! Me and Emma talked to a guy who used to be homeless, but now works for Action Homeless and tries to get more people off the streets. He was really passionate about it, because he'd been there, and he stayed awake the entire night, just watching over us and generally making us feel safe. Legend.
- 5pm- People started getting up and shuffling around, and operation clean-up got under way. It was fairly light, and I believe at that point everyone had a bright red nose from that damn cold wind. Suddenly, without warning, it started CHUCKING it down with rain. The slow waking became a mass panic once more, as people tried to roll up sopping wet sleeping bags. Malcolm, bless him, was still fast asleep in the middle of all the chaos. We woke him up, and he thanked everyone again for being so friendly to him. We just bundled as many Salvation Army blankets as we could into his bag. I was sad to see him go- it's horrible to think that someone that frail faces something that we found so hard, by himself. And this was May, what about winter? :|
- Laurel, who set up HOMED, insisted on group photos in the pouring rain, so, below you can observe the extent of our bedraggled-ness.
So yeah, I got back to halls at 6am, shattered and bleary-eyed, peeled off my soaked hoody, put my bag, which was in a bad way, by the radiator, and crawled into bed. I have never appreciated my mattress so much in my life, and the cold which had set in overnight didn't wear off for a good few hours. I slept for 6 straight hours. Going into uni later, I could feel bruises on my back, and my leg still hurts. I seriously think it was worth it though, because all I've been thinking about today is how people have to face this kind of thing every night, without the luxury of a sleeping bag, extra blankets, company, or the knowledge that they have a warm bed and a hot shower to go to in the morning. And if the 90 people who took part think like that, and tell other people the same thing, maybe something will get done about it. People that vulnerable shouldn't get forgotten about, and at least HOMED means that we're definitely not going to let them just sink into the background.
Oh! We made the newspaper! Second page of Leicester Mercury, and the online article's here.
Yup. I believe that's about it. Hopefully it'll be an annual event! :D