Weeknotes 10 - Sleeping Rough for a Good Cause

by Clive Walker

On Friday last week, three of us from Horsham Coworking (and our pal Davey Pearson from The District Post) slept rough to raise money for YMCA DownsLink Group, which helps young people and homelessness. The event was YMCA Sleep Easy 2018. It was quite an experience.

When my coworking colleague Matt Ide suggested doing this two months ago, it seemed a long time before the dreaded night. But, last Friday was 16th March and there was no backing out now! So, armed with borrowed sleeping bag, many layers of clothing, and cardboard boxes, we nervously arrived at Horsham YMCA FC to sleep rough under the night sky. No tents were allowed. Cardboard boxes were recommended.

Preparing for the night

About 25 people were already there and boxes and sleeping bags were placed around the designated sleep-out area. Not on the football club pitch but on the concrete and gravel surface adjacent to the club’s stand.

First things first, assemble cardboard boxes into a coffin-like shape for sleeping in. Yikes! With that done, we surveyed the scene. My DIY cardboard box skills were obviously less than the others who had built quite sturdy shelters. Mine, on the other hand was very flimsy …. or so it seemed and I just hoped that it would survive the night and cover me for a few hours at the very least.

My DIY cardboard box skills were obviously less than the others

Somewhat luckily, the weather forecast for the evening was for 5°C so not as cold as it might have been. But, with winds increasing and a colder morning, I wasn’t expecting to sleep much.

The YMCA Group provided soup, coffee and sandwiches. And the main organiser ran a quiz. There was some singing of songs round a campfire (the fire was too far away to impart any warmth) but it was soon time (11pm) to bed down for the night.

Sleep Easy?

Getting into a small ‘boxed’ space and into a sleeping bag wasn’t too easy but we were soon attempting to sleep. In my case, I found it very difficult. I was fully clothed inside a warm sleeping bag so I wasn’t too cold. Yet, with little space and a hard ground, it was very uncomfortable. I just found it impossible to relax and fall asleep.

I must have slept for a few minutes every hour but I think I looked at my watch every 30 minutes and the night passed very, very slowly for me.

The night passed very, very slowly for me.

The wind picked up during the night and we had a small amount of rain. It was mostly dry though. Just very difficult to sleep.

I woke up from a light sleep at ~ 5am as the dawn broke. It felt colder than the previous evening. I stayed in my box for a while before getting up and wandered around as the organisers started making coffee and tea at 6am.

I reckon I only slept for an hour or two but felt reasonably OK considering the lack of sleep. Obviously tired but I was just glad to be up and ready for departure.

We did get a breakfast and people chatted about the evening. Some had taken part in the same event the year before. And I assume they were ready for it. For me though, it was a whole new thing. Challenging. Awareness raised. Out of my comfort zone (in more ways than one).

I don’t envy anyone who sleeps rough. We were ‘prepared’ to an extent and in a safe area but living on the street for real must be incredibly difficult.

Parkrun

As part of our challenge, we ran at Horsham parkrun on the Saturday morning. A three mile jog round the park is just what you need after a sleepless night! But we did it and there was a lot of support. Thank you to everyone who donated and supported us! We raised over £1000 and I hope the money helps a few people.

Clive looks at cardboard box
Looking sceptical
Clive in a cardboard box
Ready for the night!
Roger, Clive and Matt at parkrun
Roger, Clive and Matt at parkrun
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