My Night Under the Stars in aid of Oxfordshire Homeless Movement
The rain started to fall as we gathered for our debrief. By the time we were setting up, the rain was coming down hard, and it did not stop. Not even for a second.
I had wished for bad weather all week. The day before it had been beautiful and warm, and I thought to myself “oh no, it needs to be a bit harder than this otherwise no one will want to donate!”
Perhaps I should have prepared a bit more for what was in store, but I didn’t want to be too prepared as that somewhat defeats the object. I had my sleeping bag, a tarpaulin that kept blowing away, and a piece of cardboard that got soaked through in about 2 minutes. Oh, and I had an umbrella, but it didn’t cover all of me, so I had a puddle slowly forming in the bottom of my sleeping bag. It was pretty miserable.
The 40 or so of us gathered in Oxford University Park to spend our night sleeping out. I pitched myself with my back to the rain, wondering how on earth people find sufficient shelter on nights like this. A shop doorway, under a bridge perhaps. But once everything is soaking it’s impossible to get warm or anywhere remotely near comfortable.
I think I got about an hour’s actual sleep. Between readjusting my tarpaulin and bailing out my sleeping bag, it was a constant job to try and stay warm and dry. And I wasn’t winning. I was drenched. It really brought home to me how challenging a life like this must be. At least I had a warm car to go home in, and a dry bed to curl up in. The reality for the majority of the homeless community in Oxfordshire couldn’t be further removed.
In total, we raised over £75,000 for Oxfordshire Homeless Movement. OHM is a partnership of the many organisations helping those who are homeless in Oxfordshire. They are working to ensure that “nobody should have to sleep rough on our streets.”
Something I hadn’t appreciated before doing this was that homelessness doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping on the streets. It also includes people who have no fixed address, who move from place to place each evening, hoping to get emergency housing or sleeping on a friend’s sofa. If you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in this position, you will struggle to find a job because you don’t have a fixed address. But you can’t get yourself a fixed address because you can’t prove that you have an income. And you can’t prove an income because you don’t have a bank account because you don’t have a fixed address. Its an endless cycle. The work that OHM and their network are doing is vital in breaking this cycle for the homeless community in Oxfordshire.
I am privileged to have been a part of the CEO Sleepout. It is an experience I will never forget and one that has genuinely humbled me.
‘Home is a human right. It’s our foundation and it’s where we thrive. Yet, every day millions of people are being devastated by the housing emergency.’ – Shelter UK