This months guest blogger is Paula Senior from our Fundraising & Partnerships at YMCA Burton:
YMCA Burton Sleepout – Have you heard of it? Let me explain what it is and why my everyday thoughts are currently centred around Boxes, bubble wrap & breakfast for our Sleepout in October.
Back in 2013 I was working at the local college in learner services. Part of my role was safeguarding, and I had experienced a large increase in referrals particularly for mental health & homelessness. I met Peter O’Reilly who worked for YMCA Burton and developed a drop-in session for young people and staff to chat about any concerns or find out more about their incredible work. He told me about Sleepout and that year, I got a small team together to take part. It was bitterly cold and from 3am onwards I just sat up outside my box listening to snoring, low murmurs of people talking and watching staff walking round checking all was ok as most people slept inside their cardboard boxes. I was safe amongst colleagues and a wider number of people, but I couldn’t help but consider how vulnerable people must feel, sleeping rough and alone. I would be terrified.
Fast forward 8 years and this will be my 6th year of organising YMCA Burton Sleepout. We ask people to give up their beds for the night so that others don’t have to. It’s for one night only and really is a humbling experience. Yes, it can be cold, wet, or windy, but it’s thought provoking and an amazing opportunity to raise money to help people experiencing crisis and in need of help from YMCA. And the next morning after a breakfast cob and a cuppa, we all get to go back HOME, the very place that some people don’t have the luxury of. I know it really made me feel fortunate and each time I reach for my keys, it’s a reminder that I have a home, and luckily a car yet people in my community haven’t even got a safe place to stay.
Sleepout brings people together. People come on their own to take part, with family or friends and businesses have taken part as part of their team building. It’s a great place to meet people, someone once said it was one of the best networking events they had been to as people got chatting to each other and new connections made, all whilst standing in the queue for the soup kitchen. Fairy lights, pictures & messages of support adorn the boxes along with a few teddys, lots of sweets and flasks of hot tea to keep people going through the night.
Raising money is critical to ensure we can keep providing the vital services to some of the most disadvantaged & vulnerable members of our community. Homelessness has no boundaries, it can happen to me, it could happen to you, any one of us could find ourselves in a difficult position at anytime in our lives. Working for YMCA was a real eye-opener for me as I sat talking to rough sleepers who called in for a shower, or a hot drink and to rest their feet and have a snooze in the chairs in our warm building. Cars, houses, businesses & holidays had been enjoyed by many of the rough sleepers I met, but lives change, and it could be anyone needing help. Everyone has their own story, and no one wakes up & decides to be homeless.
As for the bubble wrap, we now offer this to use when lying in your box. It helps a little with impact of the cold, hard floor.
12 weeks to go and the plans are underway. Social media, advertising, visiting people and sharing our stories. Volunteers needed, who can help us make tea and stay all night? Lots of organising takes place behind the scenes to make it the best possible experience and to bring people together for one cause. Boxes, bubble wrap & breakfast are just the tip of the iceberg of planning.
This year, more than ever in our Sleepout history, we need your help, join us on the 29th of October and help us to raise awareness of homelessness and much needed income. If you can help us by taking part, helping to sponsor the event, or volunteering please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
Email email@example.com if you want to support us!
Photo of Connie & Paula from YMCA Burton