It’s 8am on a Sunday morning and I’ve just crawled into clean PJ’s, into my own warm and cosy bed in my own warm and cosy house while my beloved makes me a hot milky coffee with fresh beans & local honey.
The reason I’m just crawling into bed at this hour is not a return from some hedonistic gathering like you might first think (although my title might have given it away). Rather, I’ve just come back from sleeping (sort of) on the cold, stone floor of the Cloisters in Worcester Cathedral. An act of selfless (?) charity – with around 30 amazing people – to raise awareness & funds for local charities who are working with Worcester’s homeless community.
As well as the camaraderie we were all moved as we listened to an actual real life story of how one of our number became homeless, not through addiction or their own self destruction, but through a chain of events beyond their control that rapidly spiralled out of control.
So far we have raised just over £3000 – a great achievement but also a mere drop in the ocean for what’s really needed to fix this ‘blight’ on our communities.
So what have I learnt?
That sleeping on a cold, stone floor is actually OK…..If you have a roof over your head and a locked door and you’ve managed to get several roll matts, 2 sleeping bags, an expensive down blanket, 3 jumpers and a coat into your transport to and from the venue.
That sleeping ‘rough’is really quite sociable & fun…..If you’re with 30 other people with generally the same mindset, hot drinks on tap and where everyone’s been vetted & generally assumed ‘safe’. And, however incredibly frustrating 29 people snoring in unison can be, it’s a reassuringly familiar noise that doesn’t carry the potential threat of violence and abuse.
I also learnt that, although our donors were overwhelmingly generous, some of their comments to us highlighted how blinkered we can be when faced with others’ adversity. That some people will give money to charity if it’s via their friends & families acts of crazy…..like choosing to stay the night on a cold January night in the safe confines of an organised ‘Sleep In’. Less inclined to give their hard earned cash to those who don’t have real choices about where to spend a cold January night – last night local shelters didn’t open for street sleepers due to temperatures reaching the great height of 4°c.
And we continue to see austerity cuts to our public services, those much needed, overstretched lifelines for our country’s most disenfranchised. On the plus side Worcester’s other residents & visitors can enjoy faster broadband, new dualling roads & a much needed shopping complex featuring a mass of chain store eateries. At least there might be more doorways to sleep in if security is lax.
So as I snuggle back into my privilege I can’t even really begin to understand the reality of homelessness, nor the vicious cycle of poverty & dispossession. I can only choose to notice that invisible community that our government and our own sense of entitlement has chosen to ignore.
And if I haven’t alienated you by speaking my truth you can still give generously at: