Sleep Rough, Sleep Easy

March 9, 2016

Written by: Ave M Bird-Spahn

While most of you were tucked up warmly in your beds on Saturday night, a handful of us braved the cold and the sleet to “sleep rough so others don’t have to”.

East Herts YMCA Sleep Easy openingThe evening began with everyone arriving around 9pm. Refreshments were served, including a delicious cookie platter donated by Subway Bishop’s Stortford, as people met one another and scoped out the hall. Cllr Norma Symonds and YMCA Trustee, the Rev’d Stuart Veitch, joined us to open the event.

Cllr Symonds spoke of her experiences being street homeless, which led to a larger discussion on homelessness, why young people become homeless, and what it’s like to be homeless.

Soon after, we unexpectedly – but delightedly! – welcomed Bishop’s Stortford Mayor, Cllr Daniel Abbott, and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Colin Woodward.

Our participants had a chance to speak to the councillors, and one participant, who is also a resident at our YMCA, used the opportunity to speak about his view of being homeless, the challenges he’s faced, how he’s overcome adversity, and what he thinks can be done in the future to help other young people like him.

East Herts YMCA Sleep Easy shelters, boxes donated by Better Removals & StorageAfterwards, the shelter building began! Twenty very sturdy cardboard boxes were kindly donated to us by Better Removals & Storage, and participants used all of them to make safe and warm shelters for the night. The winners of the competition were the Sweeney boys, with special mention to DJ for his fun and creative – if slightly unstable – cardboard house complete with chimney.

Once outside, it really started to settle in just how cold it was. It rained briefly, and the rain left behind ice. We collected firewood from the next door Birchanger Wood and created a campfire to help keep warm – even digging out a few marshmallows to roast.

Despite the freezing and unfriendly weather, we started to settle down to sleep just after midnight. My fellow YMCA colleague and I kept watch on the kitchen, ready to make teas and coffees for anyone who needed a warm drink or a quick chat inside as a break from the cold.

Camp broke early in the morning before the sun had even risen. A hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon baps, and hash browns was served in the hall, and everyone then pitched in to help clean up.

With the sponsorship pledged, Sleep Easy has nearly met our goal of raising £1,000 to help eradicate youth homelessness and enable young people to truly belong, contribute and thrive. We have currently raised just under £900 – only £115 away from our goal! Please click here if you’d like to help us finish reaching our Sleep Easy fundraising goal – we’d really appreciate it!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event, our first annual Sleep Easy, a great success. We hope to see you all next year!

If you’d like to see more pictures of the night, please visit our Sleep Easy album on Flickr. All of the excellent photos were taken by Mick Wood, our Maintenance Operative and professional-quality amateur photographer!

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