My One Big Sleep Out
On Thursday 7th November the Simon Community held their annual One BIG Sleep Out event in the grounds of Stormont to raise awareness and much needed funds for homelessness in NI. Over 160 people took part, grabbing sleeping bags and tents, to spend the night getting a slight glimpse of what the homeless experience every evening on our streets.
I must stress that the experience wasn’t intended to replicate that of actually being homeless. We were allowed to bring home comforts, blankets, snacks, hot water bottles, and the Simon Community team offered a BBQ, a warm fire inside a Teepee for anyone who needed a bit of extra heat, breakfast in the morning and an endless supply of tea and coffee throughout the night. We were completely looked after in the organisation of this event. Yet, it was one of the most challenging 12 hours I have experienced.
I could have been mistaken for the Michelin Man with the amount of layers I was wearing and yet I was so cold. I still am 12 hours later. My body was (and still is) in physical pain from tensing and curling up to try and keep warm. It is nearly impossible to sleep between the cold and the hard ground. Yet people do this every single evening. As we were packing up this morning, the thought of doing it all over again would have made me cry. As I drove home in my nice heated car, to my nice warm house, to a job that I adore, to spend the weekend with my family, I could not help but feel extremely guilty. For many, the 12 hours that I had just experienced was their daily lives. There are no camera's, no BBQ's, no nice warm Teepee if you decide you've had enough, no car sitting close by if you decide you have REALLY had enough. It is their lives and it is what they go through 24/7. We often forget just how privileged we are.
So as Christmas approaches and our lives get busier I would like to ask everyone to buy an extra coffee and give it to someone, ask someone sitting on the street if they have eaten that day or ask them how they are and if you can give them directions to the Simon Community or the Welcome Organisation. It is important to remember that we are all only ever two pay checks away from potentially being homeless. Those who find themselves on the streets are there for numerous reasons, some completely out of their control. So please, be kind, and help in any way that you can.
I would like to thank everyone who donated! Personally, we raised £800 for the Simon Community, The entire total of donations made through the Sleep Out event is still being counted and I will update everyone as soon as I have the final figure.
Thank you again and always remember how blessed you are.