After a week when much of Surrey suffered in the grip of snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures, 42 local people have helped to raise more than £15,000 for YMCA East Surrey by sleeping rough for a night.
While many closed the door on the wintery weather and huddled in by the fire, a group of brave Challengers joined the charity on Saturday 3 March to help raise the profile of youth homelessness. Their DIY beds for the night were made from cardboard and they slept under the stars at the Merstham Community Hub.
“We are absolutely delighted at the turnout tonight,” said YMCA Head of Housing, Lee Fabry, at the event.
“The total raised has just topped £15,000 and money is still coming in. These kind donations quite literally will keep local young people off the streets. We might be sleeping out tonight in the rain, with just cardboard to protect us, but this is the reality of what our residents face night after night without the support we can offer them.”
Along with local Councillors, YMCA staff, teams from Raven Housing, Stocksigns and local magazine, RH Uncovered, four residents of YMCA East Surrey’s Hillbrook House in Redhill joined the group overnight. Twenty-year-old Dean Hills has been housed and supported by the charity for the past six months.
“It means a lot to know that people care enough to do something like this,” she said.
Deputy Mayor and local Conservative Councillor for Merstham, Frank Kelly, agrees:
“Some of us are joining in tonight for the sixth year in a row, but most are here for the first time because they can see that it is a worthwhile cause. Surrey is seen as a wealthy area but there is a very real issue of hidden homelessness and we want to encourage people to talk about it. We won’t solve this problem here tonight, but we can make a start.”
A staple part of fundraising for YMCA England and Wales since 2010, Sleep Easy events across the country have seen more than 6,000 people sleep rough to raise over £1m for local YMCA services that help young people rebuild their lives.
Local carpenter, Harry, has been homeless and living rough in Merstham since September. He joined the Sleep Easy team to help prepare for the event and was keen to share his experiences of what life without a fixed address can be like.
“The worst part is not being able to keep clean,” says Harry, 40. “And once I’m wet through from the weather, I can’t dry myself off. I’m desperate to find work, but without an address it’s very hard. And I can’t afford a home if I don’t have a job.”
Refusing to feel sorry for himself, Harry is applying for volunteering roles to keep busy.
“I’m still living, not just surviving,” he says. “I refuse to give up.”
YMCA East Surrey’s Chief Executive, Ian Burks says:
“We’re thrilled about the success of Sleep Easy 18 and I’d like to thank everyone who took part and spent the night out with us. Thanks to your support, we can now help even more young people than before and support them to realise their full potential. One night out can make a lifetime difference.”
If you would like to support the YMCA’s Sleep Easy fundraisers, donations are still being accepted. Please call 01737 779979 or email email@example.com and quote ‘Sleep Easy’.