2014, Abuse, Charity, Church, Drug Abuse, experience, Holy Trinity Church, Homeless in Hull, Hull, Mental Health Issues, Sleep Easy, Sleep Easy 2014, Sleep Easy Hull, Sleeping rough, Sleepy14, sponsors, YMCA, YMCA Hull, YMCA Humber
I could see my warm breath, puffs of steam as I lay wondering what it would be like to be in this situation without knowing I had the protection of the Street Angels, the Church, the Sleep Easy staff and the amazingly cool vicar. Pretty scary is my guess. But this is the reality night after night for homeless people right across the country.
I signed up for Sleep Easy 2014 after I heard about it through friends. Seeing the homeless always gets to me, it’s something I think about when I’m at home with my heating on; how the homeless guy I know from Hull’s old town, who I befriended after working for Fuel doing promotions – was doing, and hoping his sweet little dog was well looked after too. After signing up, I realised that a lot of people I knew were already signed up and had taken part in previous years. (Which pleased me massively to know I had friends who were more than passionate about an issue I felt strongly about.) Reading through Jerome Whittingham’s tweets and posts about the possible causes of homelessness, addressing mental health, drugs and abuse, without a doubt made me think harder and hopefully raise awareness amongst his followers – nice work Jerome! Then following the hash tag #Sleepy14 made me realise just how many people care about homelessness, particularly within their own area.
After a major amount of fundraising, a few million tweets, Facebook updates, begging for sponsors and a few newspaper appearances, the night of sleep 14 arrived. Friday 31st January.
The organisers couldn’t have picked a more beautiful venue for the night, Holy Trinity Church, which, until that night, I had never taken the time to fully appreciate and of course, their lovely, very modern minded vicar, Rev. Matt Woodcock – who was the most hardcore of the lot, sleeping outside with only a sleeping bag and tarpaulin to keep him warm, rather than a quickly assembled cardboard fortress (which a lot of effort went into from the guys who built them!) Myself and Deborah Stevenson,a friend who helped me keep smiling all night, took full advantage of the invitation to climb up to the pulpit. That was definitely a Kodak moment! We also took a few sneaky photos of Debs posing in the nativity scene.
The weather was terrible, windy and rainy and we were all nithered. The brave souls at the front of the Church, Anthony Houfe and John Meehan, amongst others, bore the brunt of the wind. We set up at the side gate of the Church, with a few members of the youth group to keep us company and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. (By this point I was hugely regretting my decision of giving up on mine and Mark Bateman’s cardboard pyramid masterpiece, which refused to stand on its own; not that cardboard really made much of a difference.) We shivered, used up all our tissues for our runny noses, and took solace in the Cadbury’s Creme eggs that were delivered by some kind soul. I struggled to get close to sleeping so myself and Councillor Alan Clarke took up our handmade Sleep Easy collection bucket and headed down the street in search of spare change from the generous, somewhat intoxicated by this time, public. This proved not so fruitful as the town seemed empty, but it was worth the effort if only for the philosophical conversations we had along the way. (Alan dropping in not so sly bits of Labour propaganda here and there!) We took a couple of trips, with the odd cup of tea inbetween, kindly provided by Holy Trinity.
My personal highlight of the night was a good friend, Katy Archer, stomping through the Church in her high heels, shouting my name, cradling her vodka and coke, telling me how she had come to sponsor me and she hopes we’re all okay. This didn’t receive a good reception from everyone, as the vicar had profusely stated it was to be a dry house, however, it made me giggle and we went her packing.
After laying, shivering in the freezing cold for what seemed like an eternity, with the sharp wind blowing on my face, musing on just how lucky I was to have such wonderful friends, family and a lovely home, the Church bells struck 4am. All fell silent and I realised Debs had stopped snoring and was shivering instead. So off we went into the warm room with the heater for the last hour or so with a warm cup of tea and my double sleeping bag. Spooning went down a treat but however warm our bodies, we were still chilled to the bone. The experience of Sleep Easy was one that will stay with me forever, not only because of the generosity and support from everyone who sponsored us all, looked after us and made us feel proud to take part in the event, but the experience alone. The need behind the event; the homeless we were there to help. If I had helped just one homeless person find stability, then I couldn’t be happier – and the coughs and sneezes were definitely worth it.
The aim was to raise money for the homeless youth of Hull and to raise awareness, Sleep Easy succeeded in raising awareness in at least one person, myself.