It has raised more than £210,000 so far, and by the time it finishes 2,500 people will have taken part, even though as one veteran of the nationwide November Sleep Out puts it, participation involves “everyone trying to go to sleep, and freezing”.
Already, hundreds have slept out from Edinburgh to the Eden Project in Cornwall, from Cardiff to Norwich.
Now it is the turn of London, Bristol and Birmingham, who will aim to end the 2016 Sleep Out on a high, with more than £500,000 raised for End Youth Homelessness, a coalition of charities including Centrepoint, which this year is being supported by The Independent’s Christmas charity appeal.
On Thursday night, London will hope to achieve a record breaking attendance of more than 1,000 people – including actress and fashion designer Sadie Frost, Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer and James Bond actor Colin Salmon.
Similar numbers are expected in Birmingham on Friday night, when some 950 people are due to sleep out in the grounds of the city’s cathedral – more than twice the number who raised £92,000 when they took part last year.
Earlier this month, Cardiff achieved the Welsh capital’s biggest ever sleep out, with 279 sleepers raising £70,000.
Now Bristol, too, is aiming to improve on last year’s total of £28,000, which was raised by some 140 people.
“We’re hoping to do better than last year,” said Dom Wood, chief executive of 1625 Independent People, a youth homelessness charity which helps 2,500 16 to 25-year-olds a year in Bristol, Bath, north Somerset and south Gloucestershire.
The Bristol sleep out will see participants bedding down on Thursday night in the city’s Rivergate business district, protected from the elements by only sleeping bags and cardboard.
They will be entertained by local performers, and Bristol businesses will pitch in with food and cake. But, said Mr Wood, the most important part of the evening will be the talks by some of those who have been helped by 1625.
“People will get to hear the real stories,” he said. “Which in the past has included recollections of being spat at and kicked on the streets. As opposed to what is often the common view of youth homelessness: the misconception that the young homeless have brought it upon themselves, that it is about drugs and alcohol, which isn’t actually very prevalent in young people’s homelessness at all. For young people, the cause is mainly family breakdown.”
The young people would tell their stories, said Mr Wood, the artists would perform, “and come midnight, everyone tries to go to sleep, and freezes.”
All of the money raised in London, expected to total about £400,000, will be spent on creating the Centrepoint Young and Homeless Helpline, which aims to be a lifeline for 16 to 25-year-olds at risk of homelessness.
Elsewhere the money raised will be spent on local front-line projects organised by the 11 charities that form the End Youth Homelessness coalition, as well as UK-wide projects like the creation of a national bursary scheme to help young people access education.
Mr Wood said he hoped those who take part would wake up with a better understanding of what it is to be young, homeless and on the streets.
“One night can open your eyes to how awful it would be to live like that,” he said. “Even though, of course, you are sleeping out with about 100 other people, in a spirit of camaraderie. There’s not the loneliness that young people experience, the fear.”
How to donate to The Independent’s Christmas Appeal
The Independent’s Homeless Helpline appeal is raising money for the Centrepoint Helpline, a brand new support service that will save young people from ending up on the streets.
To donate you can:
0300 330 2731
HOME66 £5 to 70070
40-42 Phoenix Court
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