Lee Gallacher, staff member, with Associated British Ports (ABP) came along, on very little notice, to the SSJ End Youth Homelessness Sleep Out last year. As a returning participant for 2015, we asked Lee if he could tell us why he wanted to come and face this challenge again.
Here, in his own words, Lee tells us why he wanted to brave the elements, for a second year, to continue to raise money and awareness for those facing youth homelessness:
Last year I joined in with SSJ’s first End Youth Homelessness Southampton Sleep Out in the Guildhall Square. I first found out about the fundraising event about 11am that day through the company I work for, Associated British Ports, when information about it dropped into my email. I called up our fundraising co-ordinator and asked her what it was all about. She asked if I was interested in doing it and I said, “Yeah, Why not, it sounds like a giggle and a challenge. Lets see if I can sleep rough again.” I’m always up for challenging myself and experiencing things I haven’t before. So a little over 6 hrs later, I was calling my wife and asking her to prep a kit bag for me as I was still at work until 1900hrs.
The company helped organise my admin, registration and helped cover the fundraising cost. I didn’t actually arrive until gone 2000hrs, as I had to collect my kit. However, when I arrived, the team were so friendly and helpful, it almost felt like a party atmosphere with musicians, jugglers and the Sheriff of Southampton giving a chat. But the weather was appalling and people were already looking a little bedraggled, apprehensive, but excited, laughing and smiling. When all of the festivities ended, people started bedding down on the cold hard concrete.
The colourful lights switched off and the greyness of the weather and task set in, hitting home with some. Over the course of the next few hours, the bars would kick out and the revellers would wander by almost as bemused and confused as us. The heavens opened a little more and people huddled closer together to keep warm. Although, most used the opportunity of the marquee as cover/shelter, by 3am, even that was flooded out when it became borderline monsoon weather.
The reality really kicked in then; this is what it must be like for real young homeless folks. Trying to keep warm and dry all the while drunk, sometimes abusive, people wandered by from the pubs, completely unaware how fortunate they are, and how quickly life can change for us all.
By the morning, although I had managed to get some sleep, I was in a fair amount of pain in my back and hips. Sleeping on the cold wet concrete can have some serious impact on a young persons long term health not just their immediate health.
Now you may ask, why am I doing it again? Well, when I took part in the challenge last year, I learnt a lot about myself and about homelessness generally. Many years ago, I became homeless myself, but I managed to keep my job. I was working on a building site in Shirley at the time, but I convinced the foreman that the site needed a night watchman and I needed money. This meant I had a tea hut to sleep in at night. I was, in effect, homeless for 4 months. But I had, heat, food and shelter, something the Army taught me.
But during last years event I also walked about and spoke with a few actual homeless people who were sleeping rough that night. Their stories really struck a chord with me. Some were youngsters who had either been kicked out by their families, because they could no longer afford to support them due to governmental changes or relationship breakdowns, with no where to turn. Some had been abused and run away from home. Some were also ex-military, some had PTSD and it’s organisations like SSJ that support and help these people get back on their feet.
At some point in our own lives, we all need a little support, don’t we? If you don’t need support, you can help those that do.
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If you’d like to give Lee some encouragement for this year, you can sponsor him here:
Or if you’d like to make a text donation, you can donate up to £10 with JustTextGiving