As many of you know, I took part in the Big Sleepout in Aberdeen on Friday night in sub zero conditions along with around 50 other people to raise money for the homeless.
Before the event I experienced a tiny margin of the emotions that homeless people more than likely face every day. I felt afraid, I felt nervous and I felt lonely. I looked at Eddie as I started putting all my fancy woollen layers on (a luxury that the homeless don’t have) and I felt really sad that I wasn’t going to be spending my night tucked up in bed with my loved one. Instead I was going to be sleeping outside in a multi storey car park in the middle of a city with a bunch of random people I had never met before. Of course, I didn’t have to worry about people kicking me in the night, picking a fight, trying to steal my belongings or being moved on by someone, I could go to sleep relatively comfortably without fear.
With all my fancy out door kit, I knew that I didn’t really have to worry about the cold, and I kind of felt a little bit bad about that as it meant that I didn’t truly suffer the cold the way that the homeless do, but I did experience part of the vulnerability by doing the challenge on my own.
One thing I can’t give enough praise to is the staff of The Bethany Christian Trust. They were lovely, very attentive and very appreciative of the people who were taking part and raising money.
One of the people in particular that I would like to mention was the organiser of the Aberdeen event, Ross Grant. He is such a lovely young chap with a very gentle manner. He just seemed like such a compassionate and considerate person, I feel genuinely blessed to have met him despite the fact that we did not speak a great deal over the event, as he was busy attending to the needs of all the participants, along with the other members of staff.
One of the things I have found strange since the event is many people calling me ‘brave’ for doing it. I feel that this is often in direct conflict with the way that many people view the homeless. While some have called me brave for spending the night sleeping in a car park in Aberdeen, safe and well protected from harm, many people would not apply the same adjective to those sleeping on the streets for real. People think that they are lazy, or wasters, like they have somehow squandered all the chances given to them. While this may be true of some people, it most certainly would not be true of all of them, and you have to judge each case individually. I feel happy that the money that I have raised for this cause so far will go some way to helping the Bethany Trust do just that, and help those vulnerable people who are seeking help to get off the streets.
My book of choice for the evening was A Street Cat Named Bob, a fitting choice considering the cause I was supporting and a great read, I can recommend it to anyone in order to get a better feel for what it is like living on the streets or in sheltered accommodation.
Iain Gordon, the CE of The Bethany Christian Trust, made an impassioned speech at the beginning of the event thanking us for our participation in the event and therefore helping to raise awareness of the Trust, the event and the plight of the homeless in general. He reminded us that while some like to think of homelessness as a lifestyle choice that people have made, the reality is that the average life expectancy of someone who spends their life on the streets is only 47, whereas now people are generally expected to live until they’re 77. Very few people choose to live a short life.
I would like to thank all of those people who donated allowing me smash my modest target of £100 and helping me to raise £150. I am funny about fundraising. I don’t like to force people to donate to a cause that they don’t believe in. I know that many of my friends don’t consider homelessness to be a serious issue, many people thinking that all those in that position must have brought it on themselves in some way. The only way that we can erase some of these ill conceived ideas is through education, so while I don’t like to make a huge fuss about getting people to donate, I do hope that my actions may have raised their awareness, and I hope that this blog post reaches people who would otherwise not have considered homelessness to be a big issue.
To my mind, I raised more money than I could afford to spend in their charity shop and that’s good enough for me! You can still donate to my Just Giving page for a further 3 months after the event. I hopefully will be collecting donations from some of my work colleagues throughout this week too, it’s not too late to donate if you believe in the cause.