Norwich youngsters sleep rough to raise money for YMCA

Youngsters braved icy weather to spend a night under the stars on Saturday to raise funds for the city's homeless.

Armed with sleeping bags and thermos flasks, more than 50 young fundraisers camped out in the grounds of St Peter Mancroft to experience for themselves what it is like to sleep rough.

With temperatures dipping below zero, the campers kept warm by doing zumba, a treasure hunt, building cardboard shelters and taking part in a candle-lit service inside the church.

Another 20 youngsters also camped at the YMCA offices in Trowse, where it was more secure for the under-18s to spend a night outside.

Event organiser Susie Knights said: 'Those who were doing it for the first time found it a lot tougher than they had imagined. It gives them an insight into what it might be like to wake up on the floor feeling grotty and to do that day after day.

'They all knew that at the end of the night they would have a warm house to go home to, but some young people are not so fortunate.'

The campers, from youth groups across Norwich, were raising money for Norwich YMCA's new 40-bedroom hostel, which is being built in Bethel Street.

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YMCA Norfolk chief executive Tim Sweeting said: 'In these tough economic times, homelessness is a very real danger for many more people and it is all too easy for previously securely housed people to end up without a home. We want to raise awareness of this and what we are doing to combat it.

YMCA Norfolk patron the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said: 'The YMCA's work in Norwich and Norfolk gives dignity and respect to many people in danger of isolation and sleeping rough on our streets.

'This campaign highlights the importance of that work. Our city is more compassionate because the YMCA is at work here.'

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