8 March 2016

YMCA’s Sleep Easy Challengers woke to a thick layer of frost on their cardboard boxes last Sunday morning after spending a night out under the stars.

In a bid to raise awareness of the ‘hidden’ problem of youth homelessness in the local area, the brave group spent 12 hours overnight outside in the car park of the YMCA’s Sports and Community Centre in Redhill.

“Surrey is well known as an affluent area,” says Conservative Councillor for Merstham, Frank Kelly, “but homelessness is still a big problem although you don’t see it. There will be people tonight sleeping on someone’s sofa, not knowing where they will be tomorrow. We can make a difference with an event like this because all the money we raise will directly benefit people in our local area.”

YMCA Hillbrook House in Redhill provides safe and affordable accommodation, helping young people who find themselves without a secure home to rebuild their lives and sustain employment through YMCA East Surrey’s employment support fund. They also run the Heads Together programme, a free and confidential counselling service for young people aged 14-24.

The Sleep Easy event was supported by local councillors, YMCA staff, Hillbrook House residents, representatives from Tesco at Hookwood and volunteers.

Lisa Birch, Community Champion for Tesco who donated food and cardboard boxes for the event, said:

“We are really keen to get involved with this local charity and open people’s eyes to the enormous good they are doing. It isn’t enough for us to just give money – we want to give up our time to make a difference in the local community.”

Deputy Mayor for Reigate and Banstead, Cllr David Powell, opened the event with a short speech and joined the Challengers overnight. Action hero Cllr Powell, 80, currently holds the World Record for being the oldest person to skydive from 30,000 feet and plans on taking part in many more YMCA Challenges this year – including an abseil from the Spinnaker Tower and a Firewalk.

YMCA Housing Projects Manager, Jenny Hawes, was keen to highlight the serious side of Saturday’s Sleep Easy event.

“We know there is rough sleeping in Surrey,” she said, “and we want to provide all the help we can to those who need it most. Shockingly, national homelessness has increased by 30% in the last 12 months. We appreciate the support of everyone who joined us for SleepEasy 2016 or donated money. Next year, we would like to make the event even bigger!”

It wasn’t a comfortable night to sleep rough and temperatures dipped below freezing. The Challengers shared breakfast before heading home to warm up.

“We only needed to survive 12 hours for Sleep Easy 2016,” said Cllr Kelly, “but many people have to do this day after day. No one should have to live like that.”

You can still support our Sleep Easy fundraisers by making a donation and quoting ‘Sleep Easy’.

Read more about YMCA East Surrey’s housing services