Adam Watts, Assistant Manager in Restructuring Services in Bristol, and a group of colleagues slept rough for the night to raise awareness of homelessness and raise funding for 1625 Independent People. The charity is just one of those helped by the firm’s social impact strategy, One Million Futures.
Have you ever walked past a homeless person huddled in a doorway or cocooned in a sleeping bag on a bench? How did that make you feel?
It is difficult to see people living on the streets, particularly at this time of year when it is bitterly cold. Believe me, it is nothing like camping. It is also hard when you see young people who are the same age as you, without anywhere to live.
That is why I - along with seven colleagues from Deloitte in Bristol - recently volunteered to experience homelessness. Our aim was to raise awareness, as well as vital funds, for the charity 1625 Independent People which helps young people in and around Bristol, typically aged from 16 to 25, who are currently homeless or at risk.
My office selected this fantastic organisation as one of our society partners, as part of One Million Futures. Since the partnership kicked off, we have been providing pro bono advice to help them with VAT, Gift Aid, and implementing a new human resources system so they can become more efficient, grow and do even more good. That is how we came to be spending a November night in the open air.
So, what was it like, sleeping under the stars? It is something everyone asks me.
We were shivering as it was only 8 degrees. My nose was frozen and I woke up a few times in the night, partly because it started raining but also because it was quite unnerving to be sleeping in the open air. And, of course, it was uncomfortable. You wake up aching all over and feeling chilled to the bone. I could not wait to get warm. To clean my teeth. To have a shower. To have a cup of tea. All those things we take for granted. And that was after just one night under the stars. Image doing this night after night after night? We were lucky because we slept in waterproof sacks on a giant tarpaulin. Most homeless people are open to the elements. We also had access to the toilets in Trinity Church. And we had security. I think that would be the hardest – going to sleep and worrying that someone might steal from you or abuse you while you slept.
Next time you see a homeless person sleeping rough, bear this in mind.
However, it is only when you talk to people who have been homeless that you really understand who they are. At the event we heard from three young women who had been previously homeless and then helped by 1625 Independent People. They were articulate and confident, speaking in front of around 100 people about how they have been able to turn their lives around by finding a place to live.
Like these young women, most homeless people are victims of circumstances. It could be a family break-up followed by weeks sleeping on friends’ couches and then suddenly you have nowhere else to go. Without a permanent address it is hard to get benefits or gain employment let alone get a mobile phone contract to ring round to find a place to sleep or somewhere to work. Then you are trapped on the streets. It is frighteningly easy to find yourself homeless - and one of the many reasons why I support 1625 Independent People. All the funds raised from our sleep out went to help local young people, with the charity supporting around 2,500 young homeless every year.
If you are inspired to help tackle homelessness, find out more about the work of 1625 Independent People and how to support this very worthy cause at www.1625ip.co.uk.