Below is a fantastic guest post from Starbucks Dave about his ONE BIG Sleepout experience.
Thanks Dave, for supporting us and for writing such an honest account.
Hello there, I’m Dave! You may remember me from… well actually, you probably don’t know me at all, so I’d best introduce myself! I’m one of the people who took part in the One Big Sleepout for SSJ. This was not actually my first interaction with this amazing charity. Back in November I was looking for a way for my colleagues and I to get out and and about and do some work in our community. We work for Starbucks Coffee Company and our local community is something we always like to be involved with, and to help in any way we can. We volunteered for a day and painted one of the shared houses that was needing a bit of refreshing in it’s kitchen and communal areas (that’s me on the left, apparently I needed some refreshing too!). As you can tell, it was a good day doing good!
In early January I was approached by Dee and Sam to see if we’d be willing to get involved in the One Big Sleepout. I gave a tentative yes over Twitter and waited to see what’d come of this. In the meantime I had a quick brainstorm with some colleagues and thought it’d be a wonderful idea to serve the brave people taking part some complimentary coffee before they bed down for the night, and afterwards when they wake up from what I expected would be a rather uncomfortable twelve hours. Sorted! Good deed for the day done, back to work… right?
Wrong! I can’t quite explain how it happened, but before I knew it my colleague Charlie and I were filling out our registration forms and setting up our online fundraising pages. I think there was a part of my brain that was in the simplest way, curious. I liked getting my hands dirty and making a difference to the accommodation SSJ had arranged for people who were no longer homeless, I could see the direct effect it had on them seeing their new living space… but what about the rest of the story? How had it been before they found their feet and were able to have a roof over their head? I wanted to know. We very quickly develop comfort zones in our lives, and while at the One Big Sleepout there was a few dozen of us in the one location, it was certainly not going to be my normal nights sleep.
The night itself was a very unsettling experience. After Charlie and I had served coffees (and a few hot chocolates for good measure!) to everyone taking part we started getting our beds ready. We grabbed a few cardboard boxes and laid out our sleeping bags. It took all of five minutes and when we were done it started to sink in. This was home for the night. A stark contrast from my king size with double duvet, I think you’ll agree.
The night itself was uncomfortable, as I’d imagined. The city centre was loud, bustling, and unfortunately while we did attract some positive attention from the general public, the majority of people who encountered us were less than kind. Despite being in a large group, because we were on the floor in sleeping bags and trying to catch some shut eye, the fact was that to some people, we ceased being people ourselves. We ceased being entitled to the same rights as everyone else. I highly doubt these people would have knocked on the windows of every house they passed on the way home, or shouted abuse through letter boxes on the way either. Yet they took great delight in shouting at us and trying to wake the few who were managing to sleep.
During my fundraising one of my friends let me in on why he sponsored me “all of us are only ever a few wage packets away from being homeless”. Even at first glance you can tell there’s truth in this comment, but dig a littler deeper and it becomes even more sobering. I’m from Glasgow, so I have no family here, if I wasn’t in contact with them and I lost my job tomorrow, how long would it be before I was homeless?
Two months, and that’s being very generous, and the scenario I experienced in optimal conditions would no longer be a fundraising event, but my day to day life.
I’ll leave you with that thought; how long would it be for you? Hint: It’s a lot less than you think.