A week ago today over 800 bright eyed industry professionals descended onto six different locations across the country to take part in the 2022 LandAid SleepOut – back from the 2 year covid-induced hiatus and here to tackle youth homelessness. The largest of these locations, Canada Water accounted for about 300 of those and was also the setting that a few of our Freehold Board members would be calling home for the night.
It starts off quite relaxed, people arriving adorned in their layers of clothing, sleeping bags neatly wrapped up still and some clearly expecting the unexpected having packed a whole wheelie suitcase for the night. It all becomes a lot more real as you are handed a cardboard box and taken through into what will be your bedroom – a large fenced off area, completely open to the elements. This is real outdoor sleeping and what’s more, we are under strict instructions not to bring food or alcohol to the event, “ahem”.
Cue some catching up with old colleagues, setting up your space and the annual bed making competition, we are then all gathered for what are some very insightful and very sobering speeches that really get to the heart of why we are there and why this is such an important issue to tackle. One part that really resonated with me was when we, the audience were reminded of how after tonight we can go back to our beds, we can change our clothes, have a shower, go to work, have a meal. Ultimately we all have choice, and how lucky we are to have that, because those who are homeless, they do not!
The night was long, yes it was uncomfortable, yes it was cold (not helped by the revelation that I don’t actually fit in sleeping bags anymore), but the words from the speeches really put anything I was feeling into perspective – it was only for a few hours. I don’t write this as an enlightened purveyor of how everyone has to sleep rough to have any idea of the problem, but the very light insight I had into homelessness does give me pause for thought and sadness for the great issue at hand here.
At the time of writing the total raised is a staggering £493,000. I appreciate all that is going on in the world at the moment but if you can spare anything then I know all of the support will go a long long way.
I am going to put a call-out for next year – March 2023, for anyone who would like to join. It would be fantastic to get a Freehold group together to help spread awareness and raise as much support as possible. If you would like any more information, please visit https://join.landaid.org/.