Sleeping rough to support homeless

The mayor and supporters prepare for the night sleeping rough
The mayor and supporters prepare for the night sleeping rough

IT’S half-past two in the morning, minus five degrees and I am lying on the pavement looking at the stars and trying to sleep.

The noise from the revellers making their way home is getting worse and - although I am with a group of others - I am still worried that some one might fall into us, think it’s funny to urinate on us, pick a fight or.....well, the other alternatives don’t even bear thinking about.

But these are just some of the challenges faced every night by those who sleep out on the streets.

Official figures will show that the town does not have a homeless problem per se and admittedly there aren’t people sleeping in every other shop doorway.

But while there are those who choose to live their lives sleeping rough, there are also people - the majority of them young - who are homeless not through choice and the aim of the Mayor’s Sleepout on Saturday night is to highlight their plight.

We began our evening setting down cardboard boxes, sleep mats and sleeping bags on the steps of the Town Hall.

I should point out at this point that we cheated somewhat, because unlike anyone sleeping rough, we have the comfort of nipping into the Town Hall for toilet breaks and to get a hot drink.

Added to that, a stack of pizzas from Papa John’s in Seaside arrives shortly before midnight as part of the eaterie’s tenth anniversary – not the usual Saturday night treat for your average homeless person.

Lots of passers by donated cash to our collection buckets as they walked past us but as the temperature dropped and the pubs and clubs began to close up, the town empties out.

We took a stroll through the town centre and gave out some pizza to a lady in her late 20s who we came across bedding down in a town centre doorstep and a man who had his sleeping bag and belongings and was sleeping in the doorway of a large department store.

The saddest part of our evening was when, as we made our way back to the Town Hall, we came across a woman sleeping in the door of a church.

The lady, who shall remain nameless as will the church, told us she had been sleeping rough on and off since last August and seemed unwell.

We gave her some food, a hot drink and when we got back to Grove Road tucked down and tried to sleep.

Unlike all the others who slept out on Saturday night (Angus Wingfield, Steve Puttock, Mark Simmons, Vanessa Ring, Clare Gordon, Jacy Kilvert, all from the YMCA in Eastbourne, Guri Munton from East Sussex County Council and Natasha Cossey, a supporter of the YMCA) I managed to get a couple of hours shut eye despite the freezing temperatures but woke up at 6am stiff, aching, cold not to mention desperate for a nice hot bath, cooked breakfast and a warm bed.

By 7am I was at home tucked up in bed in the warmth and safety of my house.

But I couldn’t help thinking about those people we had met the night before who would just be waking up to yet another day out in the cold.

And the thought of spending the following evening out in the cold sleeping rough just filled me with dread.

There was at least a happy ending at the end of our sleep out. The following day we went back to see the lady who we had found in the church doorway and, with the help of Fat Flesh Ministries which works with homeless people in Eastbourne, managed to get her off the streets and found her some bed and breakfast accommodation.

And hundreds of pounds were raised by the mayor and her fellow rough sleepers in sponsorship money.

After the event the mayor said, “We had a long, cold night. It was a real eye opener but the generosity of the people in the pubs was fantastic. I would like to thank the YMCA and Papa John’s Pizza for their support.”