As part of the End Youth Homelessness partnership, throughout the month of November, eleven charities working with homeless young people held Sleep Out events across the country. From Aberdeen to Cornwall, thousands of people chose to Sleep Out in November to raise awareness for the 83,000 young people in the UK with no safe space to sleep, every night.
On Friday 11th November, SSJ held our 3rd annual End Youth Homelessness Sleep Out and, so far, have raised over £18,000 from sponsorship from our 68 participants who swapped their bed for a sleeping bag and joined us for a night under the stars in St Mary’s Church grounds in Southampton.
Sleep Out 2016 was an event of two halves, with music, food and entertainment until the difficult task of heading to bed at around midnight. This year we were so pleased to have even more community involvement than ever before; 6th Hedge End Guides manned our registrations station and looked after our participants bags, Southampton Sikh Seva arrived to serve food for registration to ensure that everyone was full-up on a delicious hot meal to set them up for the evening and Denmead WI prepared a large amount of cakes and sweet treats, and were wonderful hosts, serving hot drinks to everyone throughout the evening. Dominos Pizza generously provided our sleepers with a mountain of Pizza later in the evening and tea and coffee (and a wonderful filter coffee machine) was donated by local businesses Ahmed Tea and The Notes Cafe; the warming drinks were much appreciated throughout the night, particularly as morning broke and the rain came with it at 5am!
This year we were very excited to have so much local music talent involved in the event; with local blues legend, Bob Pearce kicking things off in the marquee, whilst The Real Raj welcomed our participants in the church itself. Our very own service user Music Group had the marquee rocking during their set- we were so pleased that our Music Group could have one of their first live performances with us as Sleep Out, and can’t wait to hear them develop as they play more. JB Raw and Dan O’Farrell, from local bands Johnny Boxcars and Accrington Stanley respectively, played relaxed acoustic sets whilst the infectiously enthusiastic Southampton Ukulele Jam, as always, had the whole marquee jumping, dancing and singing with them. Completing our music program were local band Denyzen and local lad Sean McGowan, who took time out of his UK tour and videoshoot to come and play an intimate acoustic set for our sleepers.
As the evening drew to a close, local poet Issa Farrah performed some spoken word and discussed his own experiences of homelessness; it was a blunt reminder of why everyone was at Sleep Out, and as the Church bells tolled midnight, it was time to prepare to bed down in a City centre on a cold, November evening.
As larger teams set off together to secure their sleeping spots and smaller groups of individuals and pairs found spaces to sleep, individuals either made new friends or found their own little corner to sleep. Luckily for our participants, the rain held off until about 5am, and many people managed to get some light sleep, though found late night party-goers heading home, dogs barking and church bells all kept people from a good night’s sleep.
At 5.30am staff and volunteers arrived with 100 McMuffins, generously provided by McDonalds West Quay and batches of warm porridge, donated by Hampshire Disco Dome Hire, were gratefully received alongside more hot drinks, this ensured that even if they hadn’t had a good sleep, people could have something warm to help them start their day.
One of our teams headed off to BBC Radio Solent, to be interviewed by Katie Martin about their Sleep Out experiences, one member of The Dirty Stop Outs team, Sammy said:
We’ve been lucky and really well looked after and it’s been lovely to do this with all of our friends but it must be a really dark place to be out there on your own.. we know that’s nothing like we did last night … and I just don’t know how people do it.
So raising the money we are, especially for SSJ and young people in Hampshire has been really important.
By 7am most of our Sleep Out participants had headed home for a warm bath and bed, grateful in the knowledge that they had somewhere safe, warm and dry to go that day; reflective of the 83,000 young people who had also slept rough or in insecure accommodation the night before, and how hard it must be to do that night after night after night…
We are so grateful to everyone that got involved in this year’s End Youth Homelessness Sleep Out. Particular thanks to our event sponsors: Solent Stevedores, Stewart Signs, South Coast Port Services and Bull-It Jeans who ensured our event costs are covered and every penny of sponsorship can go towards directly supporting local young people out of homelessness and onto brighter futures.
Special thanks to the Parish of St Mary’s for allowing us to take over their church grounds, to MBE Events Managementcompany for all their technical assistance and ensuring the night ran smoothly and to WOW Video Production for coming along and filming on the night. Huge thanks to Senator Security South for generously donating the time of Chris and Brian, our two security officers who ensured, alongside volunteers, that everyone was safe all through the night, to Hampshire Fire and Rescue BlueWatch at St Mary’s Fire Station for sending a crew along for the evening, and a great thank you to Voice FM and, in particular, Xan Phillips, presenter of The Business show, who was talked into attending Sleep Out by fundraiser, Sam, the week before, live on air, and created a wonderful broadcast of the evening for us.
If you were unable to come along on the night you can “listen again” here to a 50min podcast of the evening, featuring interviews from staff, volunteers, participants and a number of our performers.
If you would like to make a donation to our End Youth Homelessness Sleep Out, you can do so here on JustGiving or you can text donate up to £10 by texting our code “ZZZZ16” and the amount you wish to donate to 7007. e.g. Text: ZZZZ16£5 to 70070 to donate a fiver.
Every penny raised in sponsorship at this event, enables us to continue to provide essential life-skills courses and personalised support to local young people, facing great difficulties. Thank You.