A young women, who slept rough outside St Anne’s Cathedral for two nights to highlight homelessness, hopes to have raised £2,000 for the Belfast Welcome Organisation.

El Fegan, a fitness instructor from Hilltown, Co Down, was joined by four friends last Friday night, October 20, and one of her friends stayed with her again on the Saturday night.

Reflecting on the experience, El said. “We were a little unsure as to what exactly to do, I mean what do homeless people do at night?”

Setting up for the night outside St Anne’s.

She began the evening in a doorway on busy Waring Street, taking care not to intrude on anyone else’s ‘patch.’

“A few pleasant people stopped with us and their generosity helped raise about £90,” El said. “After a couple of hours we headed back to St Anne’s and bedded down for the night about 2am. Thankfully the rain cleared for most part and we left at 7am on Saturday morning.”

El spent some time on Saturday in the Welcome Organisation outreach van, finding out more about the work the charity does with the homeless, in particular with rough sleepers as she explored the reasons behind the rough sleeping.

“On gaining a little more understanding I felt less uneasy and a little more confident in maybe trying to engage with some of them on the Saturday night,” she said.

With just one friend to keep her company that night, El decided to walk the streets a little before bedding down. “We came across about 8-10 definite rough sleepers, literally sleeping on the streets, putting their heads down for the night and not bothering with anyone. One girl we’d met the night before who had a bed on the Friday night but not on Saturday night due to priorities and the selection process, a few ‘tappers,’ ie people begging on the streets but who most likely have a bed for the night, and some homeless just out and about socialising and using the services and help that were available to them.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see how much help and support there was, more so at the weekends it seems. We spoke to the SOS Bus NI, groups of pastors, a group called Night Night and a couple others about, all doing an amazing job every single weekend!”

El and her friend Linda returned to St Anne’s again about 2am. “We didn’t really have any trouble either night, although were a little apprehensive as it was just the two of us on Saturday, but I was out like a light and slept sound due to sheer exhaustion from an uneasy sleep on the Friday.”

El beds down for the night.

They were wakened at 6.20am on Sunday morning by a homeless man looking for his mate who usually sleeps at the Cathedral. “Since we were awake we decided to pack up and call it a day, we had survived the two night sleep out.”

At the start of this week El had raised over £1,600, and will accept donations and collect items for the appeal until the end of the month.

“It would be amazing if people could help us hit £2,000,” she said. “Please get in touch if you have any unwanted items, men and women’s warm clothes and sleeping bags which is the biggie!”

You can donate much need funds towards The Welcome Organisation, Belfast, via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/octsleepout

El thanked everyone who has supported her so far, with a special thanks to her ‘great mate’ Linda Mckane, who slept out with her both nights. “I literally would have sat and cried had I of been on my own,” El added.