'People want to do something to help': Dozens sleep outside in Norwich for homelessness charity
PUBLISHED: 09:45 16 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:25 16 November 2018
Almost 150 people have spent a night sleeping outside in Norwich to raise awareness and funds for young homeless people in the city.
The Sleep Out, organised by the Benjamin Foundation, is expected to raise tens of thousands of pounds to help the charity support young people living on the streets in Norfolk.
Now in its fourth year, the Sleep Out saw 146 people bed down in the car park at Carrow Road on Thursday – including more than 100 people taking part of the first time.
Local businesses showed their support too by donating provisions for the sleepers – hot dogs from Archer’s Butchers, vegan chilli from Erpingham House restaurant and morning coffee from Aroma.
Chris Elliot, marketing and fundraising manager for the Benjamin Foundation, said: “We are amazed at the turnout. It is great that people want to make a difference with us and do something.
“You realise how quickly you would get demoralised if you were really homeless, if you had no food or hot drinks and had to keep doing it night after night.
“Sleep Out seems to capture people’s imagination, doing something active to raise money and get people thinking about homelessness.”
He added: “I think homelessness is more visible in Norwich and people tell me that is why they do this – they have seen it become more visible and they want to do something to help us reduce the number of homeless young people.”
Norwich was not the only city hosting a sleep out on Thursday night. Sunderland, Belfast, London and the Eden Project in Cornwall also hosted events as part of End Youth Homelessness, a campaign for which the Benjamin Foundation has been the eastern region charity for around six years.
Mr Elliott said demand for the foundation’s services – including support for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – have risen over its 24 years in operation. It now helps around 2,500 people a year.
The Sleep Out is the charity’s biggest annual fundraiser, raising around £30,000 in 2017. So far this year around £20,000 has been raised – with more donations and sponsorship expected to come in over the coming weeks.
What did those taking part think of the Sleep Out?
Tim Betts, 46, from Wymondham, was taking part in the Sleep Out for the first time.
He and six colleagues from Saffron Housing took part together and hope to have raised around £1,000 in sponsorship.
Mr Betts said: “I got about an hour’s sleep but I’m not concerned about that, it is just the experience, and actually you get to realise how uncomfortable it is and feel that pain a bit more for the people who have to do it all the time.”
It was the third Sleep Out for Jill Watkinson, from Taverham.
“This is a great example of community spirit, of people coming together to raise awareness,” the 60-year-old said.
“We were lucky with the weather. You would not say it is a pleasant night’s sleep but it could be much worse. I can now go home and have a shower and some sleep, but some people don’t have that option.”
Hayley Culham, 38, and Tom Edwards, 28, both from Norwich, were taking part in the Sleep Out for the first time together.
Ms Culham said: “It is a time of year where you are more aware of people facing homelessness. I have moved to a city now and there are more visibly homeless people now than where I used to live.
“I have known about the Benjamin Foundation for a while. It is a local charity so it is great to know that what we are doing is having an impact on the local community.”
Mr Edwards added: “If it is one night to make things better for someone else, it is worth it.”