Former Norwich City players taking part in mass sleep out for the homeless
PUBLISHED: 23:49 14 November 2019 | UPDATED: 00:46 15 November 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
Former Norwich City legends are part of a record-breaking crowd in a mass sleep out fundraiser to support young homeless people.
The Norwich Sleep Out, organised by the Benjamin Foundation, started at 7pm tonight (November 14) outside Carrow Road football ground in Norwich, home of the Canaries.
It is the fifth year the charity has organised the sleep out, which allows people to have a glimpse of what it is like to sleep on the street overnight.
And included in the 220 people taking part in this year's fundraiser are Adam Drury, Dean Ashton, Darren Huckerby and Grant Holt.
So far, the event, which involves sleeping in a sleeping bag on a piece of cardboard until 7am tomorrow, has raised £50,000 - which will help tackle youth homelessness in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Retired footballer Mr Ashton, 35, who played for Norwich City from 2005-6, said: "I think so often the amount of times I walk past homeless people in Norwich. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of young people in Norfolk who are homeless.
"I'm a bit anxious, especially for the early hours of the morning. It is cold but not as cold as it could be."
The former Norwich City player described the work of the Benjamin Foundation as brilliant.
Money raised from the sleep out will go towards helping vulnerable people aged 16-25 supported by the Benjamin Foundation gain new skills and help them out of homelessness through education or work.
Some 100 people are helped through 12 accommodation centres across Norfolk every night who might otherwise be homeless because of a myriad of reasons, according to Benjamin Foundation marketing and fundraising manager Chris Elliott.
He said: "There is a broken family unit and that young person is without that support and we are that support."
Mr Elliott added the sleep out provided a glimpse of what it was like to sleep on the streets.
"It can be a long night. There is a bit of a buzz in the air but once you get past 10pm there is nothing going on. It is thinking time for people who get to go home at 7am," said Mr Elliott.
He added that the sleep out brought a community together to think about the issue of homelessness, which was becoming more visible.
Mr Elliott also praised the £50,000 raised so far, which is a record-breaking amount for the Norwich Sleep Out.
As well as the footballers, individuals and organisations were taking part in the fundraiser.
Naomi Newell, 28, from Bowthorpe Road in Norwich, was one of 19 staff members from Birketts Solicitors in Norwich.
The property and litigation solicitor said: "What the Benjamin Foundation does to support young people is super important. We want to be part of that.
"I find it humbling about the prospect of being able to go home after this. I feel very lucky."
Miss Newell took part in her first Norwich Sleep Out last year and said it was a lot more physically demanding than she thought it would be.
Financial adviser Neil Dobson, 48, from Kiln Close in Old Catton, Norwich, said: "It is the first time I have taken part in a sleep out. I'm at the age where I cannot do charity runs.
"You take life for granted and you have your creature comforts and you walk past people on the street. You don't know their situation. The more you research the more you realise homelessness can happen to anyone."
Denise Traube, a 36-year-old legal executive from Thorpe Marriott, was also taking part in her first sleep out with five other colleagues from Steeles Law.
She said: "I wanted to raise awareness. There are more and more people who are homeless. You see it going out at lunchtime. The funding will help those who need it.
"Everyone is high-spirited at the moment but I'm worried about the cold."
Temperatures are expected to go down to 3C but no rain is expected overnight.
For more information about the Benjamin Foundation, visit www.benjaminfoundation.co.uk