This time last year, James was registering for the Sleep Out and preparing for a night outdoors. After the event, he shared with us how he found the whole experience, from preparing the things he would need for a night in the cold to the importance of raising awareness for those who are homeless. To join our Sleep Out team this year, register online now.
"On Friday evening I joined a few hundred other people and spent the night sleeping outdoors. This annual ‘Sleep Out’ aims to raise money for a few different charities working in Bristol who serve the homeless population and takes place at the end of ‘Homelessness awareness week’
Bristol has just been announced as having the second highest number of ‘rough sleepers’ in the country, behind Westminster. Rent prices are increasing faster than anywhere in the country and house prices continue to rise.
It is the first time I have taken part in the event and I decided to do it as way of raising money for the Crisis Centre and to experience in a very small way what someone who sleeps rough might go through.
I attempted to make the evening as authentic as possible but couldn’t help feeling like a fraud as I spent Thursday evening packing my bag with spare clothes, a sleeping bag, scarves and gloves. I am sure that someone who is homeless would love the luxury of being able to plan so meticulously for each night they face sleeping outdoors.
I planned to leave for the sleep out directly after work on Friday evening and to get to the rendezvous point and set up my sleeping area. I couldn’t help but notice however that I lingered slightly longer in my office than I ordinarily would on a Friday evening.
Eventually I left and cycled down to the grounds of a city centre church to meet with some friends and as we gathered together I again felt like this was almost too much fun, meeting friends being given a cup of tea, bread roll and a ‘cup a soup’ made it feel like a camping trip. As did the knowledge that we going to be kept safe by marshals patrolling the grounds of the church and that we wouldn’t be moved on by the police of risk being assaulted by a passer-by. I was also very aware of the sense of safety that knowing that at any point I could go home if the notion took me, or if the weather took a particularly arctic turn. All luxuries that those who sleep rough every night don’t have.
Eventually it was time to ‘bed down’ and try to get some sleep. This is when the reality of what we were doing hit. When drinking tea and socialising, I had been able to ignore quite how cold it had got. I have no desire to harp on about how unpleasant it was because in the morning I cycled home, went back to bed for a few hours and had a hot bath. The thought of that being my reality every night is horrendous. It really is unacceptable that in a civilised society there are people who have nowhere safe or warm to lay their heads at night.
The aims of the sleep out are to raise money and awareness. I am now a lot more aware of homelessness in our city and I hope that you will seek out information about how you can help support the charities trying to eradicate it."