Residents of Newcastle are volunteering to sleep outside on the night of the 1st December to raise money to support some of Newcastle’s rough sleepers. The aim is to raise enough money to provide 12 rough sleepers with a bed for the month of December. This is expected to cost roughly £7,440, an ambitious, but not impossible target.
In 2017, there were 45 rough sleepers in the North East, and 991 living in temporary accommodation, according to homeless charity Shelter. Those who sleep on the streets have a dramatically reduced life expectancy, 47 for men and 43 for women, whereas the average for the general population is 80 for women and 74 for men. To participate in the sleep out you must be over 18 and have registered in advance. You must also provide essential items such as thermals, a sleeping bag and an umbrella. Participants are also expected to raise at least £20 before taking part, the cost of keeping one rough sleeper off the streets for a night. The event will take place in the Civic Centre gardens, from midday on 1st December until 8am on 2nd December. Under 18s can attend the event but must leave by 6pm on the 1st December. The Big Sleep Out has been organised by the Jesmond Parish church.
Michael Sutherland, a member of Jesmond Parish Church, and Ramzi Adcock, New Executive Minister at the Parish and Newcastle University alumni, helped to organize the event. Michael is a former homeless person who now wants to help those who are in the same position that he has been in. Their faith has been a significant part of promoting the Sleep out event. Michael said that, “what we do started out of the heart of a recovering homeless man and his compassionate church. “£20 takes a person off the street for a night this Christmas, but meeting Jesus has given me a home forever.”
Similar sleep out events will be happening across the country over November and December to help Britain’s homeless. According to The Big Issue the number of homeless people in the UK outnumbers the entire population of Newcastle. Events like the Big Sleep Out may not resolve the issue of homelessness altogether, that will take active changes spearheaded by the government, but raising money to keep some people of the streets in the coldest winter for a decade could be a lifesaving endeavour.