Sleeping out to raise money for The Bromley Homeless Shelter
It was 2am. I knew it was 2am as the church tower bellowed over us every hour. That’s when it really sunk in for me, when the rain was hitting my face and no matter which way I was lying the rain found me. It felt uncomfortable and no matter where it landed it was always surprising. I thought over what I was doing and why. It had been a pleasant evening - we arrived at the church at 7:30pm and were greeted by the musical talents of the CGL Bromley PODs and Rockers who had made us all proud. We were treated to a lovely meal provided by two local restaurants and were greeted with over thirty smiling faces all apprehensive about what lay ahead. The air was cool but not cold as we set up our sleeping bags, laughing and joking. At 11pm it began to rain - constant gentle rain that didn’t stop. Between the five of us we drifted in and out of sleep but at 2am there I was with four fellow Bromley team members sleeping in a graveyard.
The event was arranged by Bromley Homeless Shelter and by the time we went to sleep we had raised £1,215. We were so proud of ourselves! We were given the opportunity to talk about CGL, who we are, what we do and why we wanted to take part in the event. We spent time with the Deputy Mayor of Bromley and our local MP and members of our community who wanted to help the homeless as much as we did. Speaking to several people they all seemed prepared, some with tents, some sleeping using the overhang of the roof as protection but we had decided against that - we wanted an experience that was as true as possible, through starting with a full belly meant there was no way of completely understanding.
We decided to take part in this event as we wanted a greater understanding of what it felt like to sleep rough, like some of our clients, to enhance our empathy.
We woke up in the morning wet, but proud we had slept overnight and raised money for a local cause. It was only as we were in the church hall eating the breakfast provided that we spoke about what it must really be like to be homeless. As we were all divulging how we planned to go home, take a hot bath, see family or cuddle up with our cats we realised we all had somewhere to go, we had somewhere to dry our sleeping bags, put a fresh set of clothes on and “feel like us again”. Then we spoke about what we would do if we didn’t have that place with a bath to lie in, or dry off - what would it actually feel like to be homeless? I couldn’t face the idea of not lying in my bed for another night. We were in a safe place, an organised event and yet people, clients do this every day, night after night. It was then our perspective, empathy and respect grew.