COUCH Health take on Manchester’s Sleep Out 2019
Although efforts are being made to reduce homelessness in the UK, year by year the rates of people sleeping rough are drastically increasing. With homelessness being such a prominent issue in Manchester, COUCH Health decided to sleep on the streets for one night in November to raise money and awareness for the Booth Centre, a charity aiming to put an end to homelessness.
The days leading up to the sleep out
With only a couple of nights left before the Manchester Sleep Out, it’s safe to say we were apprehensive. The realisation that people who are homeless aren’t able to ‘prepare’ for their nights on the streets, not able to gather supplies in case it rains, or buy snacks to make sure they don’t go hungry for the night, made the experience even more real. Those sleeping on the streets day in day out are simply forced to do so with no layers, comforts or friends around them. And with this thought in the back of our minds, we felt motivated to do the sleep out to gain even the smallest insight into how tough it can be.
The sleep out
When we arrived at the cathedral, we were pleasantly surprised at how many people were taking part; hundreds of people were prepared to spend their Friday night raising money for this worthy cause. We were greeted by friendly volunteers who ensured the night ran smoothly. With limited spots of grass available, we quickly grabbed an area that we’d call home for the night.
The Booth Centre set up an introductory talk where Amanda Croome, the CEO, spoke about the charity and all they do to help keep people off the streets. A guest speaker who’d previously been homeless was also invited onto the stage, who spoke of the hardships that homeless people face: the loneliness, the threat of being attacked and stolen from, and the feelings of desperation. It was inspiring to hear from someone who’d suffered so much in his past, who now has a full-time job and a home. Without the Booth Centre, this may never have been possible for him.
A few songs were also performed for us by Streetwise Opera - a group that run free singing and creative workshops for those who are currently homeless, vulnerably housed or have been affected by homelessness. The singers were so passionate about the choir and loved being a part of it, and this is another activity that exists because of the Booth Centre’s hard work.
Trying to actually sleep
Now comes the difficult part of the night, actually trying to sleep. We all started with a positive mindset. We had grass to sleep on rather than concrete, how hard could it be? Well, we soon found it to be incredibly hard. The first challenge was dealing with the cold, as temperatures dropped to -2 degrees. Even with all our layers, the cold was impossible to ignore. Then the constant sound of sirens and car horns made it difficult to relax, even in the safe environment we were in. And the most challenging part seemed to be how uncomfortable we were on the floor. The grass did little to support us and made sleep almost impossible – with a group total of roughly 45 minutes sleep!
We found ourselves counting down the hours until we could be in a proper bed, as we had the luxury of knowing this experience would soon come to an end. But knowing this was a regular experience that some people had to deal with, really hit home to us all.
The experience was very challenging, but one that I’d recommend to everyone. It was insightful and eye-opening, and has given me a new perspective and outlook on homelessness.
Thanks to all the support we received, COUCH Health managed to raise a total of £2,522.30 for the Booth Centre! Every £25 helps one individual to receive food, hot showers and advice this winter. So we’re thrilled that the money we raised will support over 100 people to get the help they need, especially at this cold time of year.