8 January 2024

YMCA Sleep Easy is back for its 12th year on Friday 8th March 2024 and your help is needed to support young people facing homelessness.

YMCA East Surrey is looking for individuals, friends, schools and other community groups to join staff, councillors and housing residents in Redhill and spend one night sleeping out under the stars or sleeping somewhere other than your own bed.

“One night can make a lifetime of difference,” says YMCA East Surrey’s Head of Housing, Lee Fabry. “Sleep Easy gives us just a very small idea of what it’s like to be homeless. Everyone who takes part knows that they can go home to their dry clothes and warm beds. Some people don’t have that luxury. They have to hide their belongings, find food and put up with damp clothes, day after day.”

When Rebaz arrived in the UK from Iran as an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC), he didn’t speak a word of English, owned only the unsuitable clothing he was wearing, his glasses were broken and he had optical health issues. Exhausted and traumatised, he was enduring PTSD-type flashbacks from being badly beaten and persecuted.

“I came here from hell,” says 18-year-old Rebaz. “It was very dangerous in Iran and I was so scared. My two brothers raised me but now I don’t know where they are or if they are OK.”

Rebaz was given a room at YMCA Hillbrook House, which provides safe, secure and affordable accommodation for young homeless people. He received counselling, medical, dental and optical care, financial training and guided social interaction to help build his confidence.

“First of all, everything was difficult. I lived in a tiny, quiet village in Iran where there was no school, so it was hard to get used to all the people and all the cars. I felt very small,” Rebaz remembers. “But everyone is wonderful here, very kind. I have found a new family. They tell me ‘I believe in you, you are strong, you’re doing so well.’”

Successfully enrolled at East Surrey College, his English is much improved and he can communicate without the need for an interpreter. Now officially a British citizen, Rebaz is extremely grateful for the help he has received.

“I have plans for the future. I have seen many, many difficulties in my life but I want to help all the children who see difficulties like me, just as the staff here have helped me. I want to be there for my own children too.”

“I am now free and happy. I love the YMCA. I love my new life.”

Every night, thousands of “hidden homeless” are forced to sleep on sofas, floors, public transport or with strangers. Without secure affordable housing, these young people face the frightening reality of having nowhere to call home.

Please get in touch with YMCA East Surrey if you think you could give up your bed for one night to help support young people who do not have a secure place to sleep. Community group and schools are invited to swap beds for sofas or floors and businesses can sponsor a box at the event.

Find out more at YMCA Sleep Easy or call 01737 779979.