Big Sleep Out to raise cash and awareness over the plight of UK’s rough sleepers
On Friday 24th April, Cornerstone will be hosting a Big Sleep-Out charity event to help support thousands of men and women who sleep rough on our streets.
It will provide the wider community with the opportunity to help the homeless in and around
The event, in which the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, will be taking part, will be a great fundraiser for Cornerstone but it will also give participants a glimpse into the life of a homeless person. Cornerstone volunteer Tony Murray describes how participants will “certainly get a sense of how uncomfortable it is.”
Mr Murray is not only a volunteer at Cornerstone but also a trustee for Caritas Diocese of Salford, the charity of which Cornerstone is a part.
Tony says fundraising events such as this one are vital to the on-going work of the centre: “Cornerstone provides its day centre for the homeless with no funding from national or local government and has to raise £250,000 a year solely to meet its running costs.”
He makes clear that the money all goes towards the day centre. “With the day centre being used by so many people it is obvious that items and facilities get worn out and need replacing. The showers take a tremendous hammering,” he said. Recent building projects have included the cold serving area, which has just been refurbished at considerable cost.
The centre has great plans to expand its services, and is looking to create greater ‘sleep-in’ capability. “We want to provide a place for the homeless to sleep in cold weather, from December to March. The Big Sleep-Out will raise funds towards this plan, developing a new cold weather response that will offer a warm, safe and welcoming place in which to rest and recuperate.”
In addition to funding this great proposal, the money raised will also help towards Cornerstone’s new outreach service, which will be set up to support people in their lodgings and tenancies who need help to live independently in the community.
Tony says all participants have been given a list of things to bring on 24th April. “All have to bring sleeping bags and a camping mat, warm clothes, waterproofs, cardboard, a torch, a hat, gloves and a sense of humour.” This last item is possibly the most important, as maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to the mental wellbeing of homeless and rough sleepers. However, as Tony points out, this is not a night for laughter: “We must not forget the reason we are taking part in this fundraiser. For participants it may only be one night but for many rough sleepers it is not an ‘elective lifestyle’.
He explains how, especially as we have just enjoyed Easter, it is important to remember the discomfort Christ went through and the discomfort these people must also feel every day and night.
While coping with cold and wet weather is the biggest challenge rough sleepers face, it is not the only one. Tony says one of the saddest sights he has seen is when people out late at night see someone sleeping rough and think ‘lets have a bit of fun’.
Mr Murray explains how these actions brought out by the “awful traits in some people” can sometimes have tragic consequences. “There is a sad irony that many rough sleepers may not even sleep due to the fear of people targeting them”, and describes how some homeless come to the day centre early to get a chair to sit in and get some sleep.
The Big Sleep-Out will have first aid at hand, with marshals on duty throughout the night. There will also be toilets provided and limited shelter in case of bad weather. Once the Big Sleep-Out has finished, participants can also attend Mass and be treated to a well-earned bacon sandwich and hot drink, something Mr Murray is looking forward to!
The event will begin at 8pm at St Christopher’s RC Church in Ashton-under-Lyne, where participants can check in up to 10pm. Sleeping will commence at 11pm and is followed by breakfast at 7am on Saturday morning.
Participants can register online at www.cornerstonebigsleepout.co.uk before showing up to the event. You cannot turn up and take part in the event without first registering online.
Participants can enter either as an individual or as a group (with family, friends, a team of work colleagues or as an organisation). Participants under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult (with the maximum ratio set as 3:1) and anyone between the ages of 16-18 must provide written consent from a parent or carer.
There is no minimum sponsorship but participants are encouraged to raise as much as they can.
Mr Murray explains how Cornerstone finds “tremendous” support from many places in the Greater Manchester area, including schools, parishes, the Mary Strand Trust and Caritas, which he describes as “the Church at its best, living out the gospel.”
For more details, see www.cornerstonebigsleepout.co.uk