By Sarah Perry
On the evening of Saturday 16th April, the Young Men’s Christian Association staff, wearing their high visibility jackets set up the registration desk and prepared cardboard boxes ready to welcome the participants of the Sleep Rough Challenge that evening.
The Sleep Rough Challenge started in 2010, taking place in towns across the UK, but this is the first time for Bournemouth - where there’s a very high statistic of homeless people.
The event couldn’t have taken place without Cady, a volunteer for the YMCA and who took on the whole project by herself as the Marketing Assistant.
Cady dealt with communications, support and the social media for the Sleep Rough Challenge.
She explained: “This event is challenging, it was a challenge for the participants to sleep out all night and it’s hard to get people to actually commit to that.”
Each of the 42 participants were sponsored to sleep outside for one night to raise money to get homeless people off of the streets.
The funds will also provide them with support from the YMCA to help them move on positively with their lives.
The temperature was beginning to drop as the participants arrived around 8pm, carrying their sleeping bags and big coats to keep themselves warm.
Ellie, a 22-year-old Illustration student from Bournemouth Arts University said: “It’s scary how cold it is.
“When you think, a lot of people don’t have as much to wear as we do and all winter too and we’re doing this in April, with more clothes and in a safe environment.”
Each participant signed in and received a YMCA keyring with their name on.
They were then allowed to take three cardboard boxes each to create a shelter capable of keeping them warm during the night.
The nerves were kicking in as nobody knew exactly what to expect for the night.
Lorraine Moalosi, an Acting student from Bournemouth Arts University, was turning 23 on the night of the event.
“It’s emotionally difficult to sleep outside on your birthday but some people have to so every year.
“I’m scared to get a glimpse of what it’s really like and break down.”
When asked why she decided to participate, she replied: “I want to help put humanity back into everything and not just give money to charity.”
Most of the participants had arrived by 9pm and were deciding where to set up their shelters around the playground.
There was an award for the best shelter based on how warm it would keep you and how resistant it would be - especially if it rained - teaching the participants basic survival skills in the process.
There was already a sense of solidarity present with the participants as they smiled and worked together to build that winning shelter with only tape, boxes, bin bags and pens.
The aptly named ‘Team Solutions’ won a teddy bear as the prize for the best shelter as it was the warmest.
They had also innovatively used bin bags on the roof to protect themselves from the rain.
Tea, coffee and soup were available for everyone throughout the night and Dominos delivered pizzas at 10:30pm as a gesture of goodwill – an act that certainly wouldn’t happen on the street.
“Some of the participants said that they didn’t want to be fed or have access to hot water and were disappointed that the event wasn’t actually held on the streets”, explained Sheena Daymen, YMCA marketing manager and fundraising manager, but for safety reasons the sleep rough challenge was in the enclosed environment of St Michael’s CE Primary School.
At 6am, the participants dismantled their forts after a long night spent out in the open.
A few claimed to have gotten very cold feet during the night, but used their knowledge and creativeness to warm themselves up by wrapping newspaper and bin bags around their feet or putting their feet in spare cardboard boxes.
Lucy Tyndall, a 20-year-old Multimedia Journalism student said: “We should have concentrated on a proper shelter instead of making it pretty.
“I’m so glad I’m not homeless, I couldn’t do it every night.”
The event was an amazing life experience for the participants, who now have a better understanding of sleeping rough - but they were aware their experience had a lot more luxuries and was most definitely safe.
“We’ve been sleeping here tonight in a secure place, the gates have been locked, we don’t have to worry about people coming along and moving them on or standing on them, just all the things that can happen out on the street”, said Sheena.
£5,000 was raised thanks to the Sleep Rough Challenge, which will go towards 12 decommissioned rooms that are not funded by the council to be able to put a roof over someone’s head whilst the YMCA helps them with counseling services to get their life back on track.
Sheena explained that, if you want to help get homeless people off the streets, it’s better to donate to the charity rather than give them spare change directly to assure that the money goes towards the right services that can actually help them.