On November 12th, I travelled to Bristol for another ‘Sleep Out’ to raise awareness of homelessness.
Last year, I took part in my first sleep out and spent a wet and windy night in a car park at Bristol Temple Meads. What I learnt over 15 hours opened my eyes to the situation that affects too many people. 83,000 young people aged between 16 and 25 find themselves without a home each year through no fault of their own. Family breakdown is the most common cause but there are many other situations including abuse and debt.
The Bristol based charity ‘1625 independent people’ helped 1800 young people last year not just find a place to live but giving advice and support to those who needed it. With less social housing and more private landlords, rent prices are making it more difficult to find an affordable home for many. 1625ip has 200 units which help a handful of people.
Sponsors of the event OVO energy hosted the Sleep Out at their wonderful building on Temple Quay. My daughter Poppy was joining me this year as were 136 others who felt this was a worthy cause. As I signed in at the reception, I was met by the CEO, Dom of 1625ip who thanked me for attending again and complimented me on my write-up on last year’s event. Along the corridor, I bumped into Jamie, Pilar and later on, Tia (also of 1625ip) who were pleased to see me returning. In the atrium, everyone was gathering to enjoy the start of the evening with ‘Pieminister’ donating 200 pies and ‘Friska’, who have a cafe there as well as across Bristol, kept us refreshed until midnight and provided Brioche breakfast rolls from 7am. Entertainers also gave up their evening to come and entertain us with dancers, a magician and musicians taking to the stage.
At 8pm, we listened to Steven of Ovo talk to us about the Ovo Foundation which invests in projects helping youth poverty. Dom of 1625ip then talked about the evening with some shocking figures including how the average age of death for a homeless male is 47 (Huffington Post figures for UK average 79) while for females it is 43 (HP = 82). He also mentioned that Beau, who was supported by 1625ip and volunteered at last year’s sleep out, sadly died earlier this year age just 21. Na was back this year to talk again about his experience of being homeless and how he would be kicked about in broad daylight with people walking by preferring not to get involved. On another occasion, he was actually set on fire. Na now helps out at 1625ip because, as he explained to me last year, the charity saved his life.
Esme of the Bristol Post came and chatted with me about why I was doing the event and admitted that she was rather nervous about taking part. Even the Lord Mayor of Bristol was sleeping out tonight at age 72.
At the end of the evening, before we headed to bed, we were treated to a bedtime story by children’s author Oliver Rigby who read his first book ‘The Bristol Giants’ which was the best selling children’s book in Bristol last Christmas. He then read us his new book, ‘The Bristol Giants Save Christmas’ which everyone enjoyed.
Tonight’s weather was not good with winds and heavy rain causing us to head to Ovo’s covered car park to set up our beds for the night. There was plenty of cardboard to put down onto the cold, concrete floor plus some large waxed paper sacks to get inside with our sleeping bags. Once it stopped raining, some decided to chance the weather and go outside but by 3am, their cardboard and sleeping bags were sodden. The night was noisy with the sound of sirens and vehicles, the wind whistling through and the temperature dropping. I would say I had a maximum of 2 hours sleep all night and ached next day from the hard floor. After breakfast, I said goodbye to everyone and headed to the station in the rain and was soaked through by the time I got there. I was pleased to know that the next night, I would be sleeping in my comfortable bed but was also sad that knowing how tired, cold and wet I was, for many, that’s a normal day for them.
#sleepout, #brizzz, #homeless, #homelessness