It has been almost 3 weeks since our second annual YMCA Sleep Easy event. This year we had over 55 people who braved the weather and slept out in the car park of St Cuthbert’s and St Joseph’s church in North Shields. We are incredibly proud to say that the amount raised is currently sitting at £9208.72 – with cash donations still coming in. We expect to have raised over £10,000 by the time all monies are in and counted. We are absolutely thrilled with the generosity and support that has been shown this year.
The weather had been threatening to make the night a very challenging one, but there was a buzz of excitement in the air as people started arriving with their sleeping bags and extra layers of clothes. Everyone was greeted by two roaring fires and the smell of freshly brewed coffee which was provided by Tynemouth Coffee Company. The weather wasn’t going to dampen our spirits.
An amazing selection of burritos, provided by Zapatista, arrived at around 8.30pm and filled everyone’s tummies. It also provided an opportunity for everyone to come together around the fires whilst our staff member, Eliza Lawson spoke and introduced everyone to one of our resident, Alex. Alex has been living with us for 7 months and has already made huge steps in creating positive change via the opportunities YMCA North Tyneside has offered him. She explained,
“Since Alex arrived with us he has been working incredibly hard in our community allotment, he has done a plastering qualification and is now being taken on as an apprentice as part of the new community cafe that is currently under construction within our main building. It is a rare and valuable opportunity for the fundraisers and participants to connect with the real people who have been through the very thing that we are trying to tackle. With youth homelessness on the rise it feels more important than ever that we come together as a community to raise money and awareness – but also for our young people to see that people really do care. Feeling valued and seen is often more important than anything. It was such a pleasure to introduce Alex, a truly humbling experience.”
Our residents provided lots of additional help and support with the setup of the Sleep Easy and throughout the evening. Helping to pitch shelters, sweeping the car park, moving heavy tables and chairs, keeping the fires fuelled and mixing fantastically well with everyone.
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We all mucked in and helped each other to set up their sleeping areas for the night. Cardboard boxes, plastic sheeting, ground covering and the sleeping bags they had brought with them were constructed into shelters. The extra Bivvy Bags we had provided came in handy as the weather had been unpredictable. They provided extra shelter from the wind, rain and the drop in temperature during the night.
Wendy Dunn, from Norham High School, who has raised an amazing £395 towards the fund said,
“It was a very rewarding experience. I could never have imagined I knew how homeless people might feel, but I know how scared I was and I had people looking after me through the night! I will definitely do it again next year, it is a worthy cause and we should all sleep rough once in are lives to appreciate what we have.”
The rest of the evening was fairly relaxed with people congregating around the fires with hot drinks to keep them warm. We were also treated to some amazing live acoustic music, provided by YMCA Music Studios and Queen Alexandra College music students, which helped to keep everyone’s spirits up.
After the event I chatted to another of our participants Gavin Stewart (pictured above). Gavin was there from JGS Consulting, who have been hugely instrumental in helping YMCA North Tyneside with our housing refurbishments and the building of new supported accommodation. Gavin explained,
“The night itself was wet and windy but didn’t dampen the spirits of the people taking part, the live music and food around the fire pits created a great atmosphere. It was good to see people helping each other to prepare their sleeping quarters for the night, well needed to prevent the wind blowing our cardboard shelters away!”
“It hit home how vulnerable sleeping rough must be. Not being able to settle through the night, wondering as to whether your only possessions are going to be safe, whilst also trying to keep yourself protected from the elements of the weather and other people around you. It was a humbling experience, but very well organised and a great atmosphere. It was a pleasure to be part of Sleep Easy 2017, to raise money for a very worth cause and to have a fantastic and thought provoking shared experience.”
The work began this week on the conversion of our third floor into 6 new self contained apartments. The fact that we already have a waiting list for the beds to be filled is no surprise, it is clear that there is a rising demand for organisations like ours. However, with events like Sleep Easy bringing communities together and raising much needed money and awareness, we are creating a platform for genuine change by supporting those that are so often unseen and unheard.
Dean Titterton , our CEO here at YMCA North Tyneside summed up the importance of the work we do and why events like Sleep Easy are vital,
“I am making this a personal ‘Thank you’ to all of you who took part in our recent SleepEasy17 event and those of you who generously supported us in many ways, including financially. Homelessness in a modern society is a tragedy, yet there are too few resources to adequately tackle the scale of it. We at YMCA North Tyneside held this event to raise both awareness and much needed finance.
We are a charity that develops opportunities to transform young lives. We do inspiring work supporting young people, and have been since 1879. The focus is on young people and we support and help them play an active and fulfilling role within their communities. We want to do more and with the help and support that so many of you have shown, goes a very long way in helping us achieve our vision and mission. Thank you.”
If you / your company would like to offer support for next years event then please contact Eliza on (0191) 2575434 ex. 103 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to get involved? Sign up to Sleep Easy 2018 here!
YMCA operates in over 530 different communities in England, impacting upon the lives of over 600,000 people every year. Be a part of it.