The support for YMCA East Surrey’s 10th Sleep Easy event came from all quarters, with enthusiastic participants sleeping rough overnight, local companies paying to ‘Sponsor a Box’, two Guides groups joining in at another venue and virtual participants swopping their beds for floors or sofas at home.
On Friday 11th March, 30 challengers built their temporary homes for the night out of cardboard boxes and slept rough in the car park of Reigate Town Hall from 7pm to 7am on Saturday morning.
YMCA Sleep Easy is a fundraising challenge event that asks participants to spend one night sleeping somewhere other than their own bed. It raises money for YMCA East Surrey’s employment support fund which helps young people who have experienced homelessness into employment, training and education.
Cllr Jill Bray, Mayor of Reigate and Banstead, was among the Challengers who braved 12 hours of rain and chilly temperatures on Friday night. YMCA East Surrey is one of her chosen charities this year.
“I wanted to give my wholehearted commitment to this event as it will be the closest I’ve ever been to walking in the shoes of someone who is homeless,” said Cllr Bray.
“It has really brought home to me the detail of living rough and how enormously hard it can be – from trying to stay dry, keeping warm, using the bathroom and even managing contact lenses, it’s been a real eye-opener.”
In total, to date, over £8,500 has been raised, including £950 from Raven Housing Trust, Esure, Halliwell Marks, Ralph James, Clockwise Marketing, Waterwhileaway Ltd and Earthwurks, who all sponsored one or more boxes for the night. A 3-strong team from Andrews estate agents in Reigate and Redhill also slept rough at the Town Hall, raising more than £1,000 through sponsorship.
For four dedicated YMCA challengers – Cllr Frank Kelly, Kim Roderick, Jenny Hawes and Freda Clark – this was their 10th YMCA Sleep Easy event and they received awards on the night for their efforts.
Cllr Kelly said:
“We have slept out on nights that were so cold our sleeping bags froze. I was shovelling snow to clear a space one hour before we began the event one year and at another the police turned up because a helicopter had alerted them to our presence. We invited them to join us for a burger!”
“After the first year, we realised that we weren’t going to die just from one night sleeping rough. If we get a soaking, we can go home and dry off. And if we lose something, we are not going to have to learn to do without it. The cold reality for those who are homeless is very different.”
Making their own camp outside Empire Hall in Horley, 20 excited young members of 4th and 9th Redhill Guides, aged between 11 and 15 years, slept rough with 6 of their leaders. They have so far raised £1,261.
Speaking after the event, 12-year-old, Carrie, said:
“Last night was a lot of fun, but I’m glad to be back in my home.”
YMCA East Surrey provides accommodation for local young people at risk of homelessness. Last year, 8303 hours of support were provided by the YMCA housing team to residents in Redhill and Merstham. A new Move-On property has also recently opened in Horley.
Lee Fabry is YMCA East Surrey’s Head of Housing. He says:
“We want to give young people in crisis life-long tools to thrive. The reasons for homelessness are complex, from family breakdowns and mental health concerns to job losses or bereavement. Young people are particularly vulnerable and, with the pandemic creating additional pressures, we have seen a significant increase in young people finding themselves without a permanent base.”
“YMCA Sleep Easy was an amazing night and we were supported by an amazing group of people. It was exhausting, but a complete success, and I could not be more proud of everyone who took part.”