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25 November 2016

Homelessness: A Firsthand Experience

In Wrexham on 18 November, a charity sleepout was hosted to raise awareness of homelessness. Set up by the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham(AVOW), a community-based charity group who supports causes within the area, volunteers slept in the bandstand outside the Guildhall after scrounging around town for adequate items for shelter. With temperatures dropping significantly after sunset, the group of 12 spent a very cold night. During the sleepout, seven actual homeless people joined the group. The night was punctuated by the occasional passer-by donating drink or food.

John Pritchard, Mayor of Wrexham, fully supported the sleepout after learning of the realitiesof homelessness and the breadth of people who can be affected by it. Almost anyone can become homeless given an unfortunate line-up of circumstance and misfortune. AVOW staff pointed out relevant examples of an 18-year-old and a 72-year-old who were made homeless.

A sleepout volunteer told The Leader, “The majority of people walk on by when they see a homeless person, but sleeping out was a real reminder that everyone has a story and should be treated with dignity and respect. Just stop and chat, offer a warm drink if you can and remember that not all homeless people are drug users.”
AVOW is only one of many organisations banding together to spread awareness of homelessness in the form of a sleepout. London-based Centrepoint has hosted an annual Sleep Out since 2005. Its first ever fundraiser took place in Covent Garden, migrating each year to another location in London or across the U.K. What started as a small event with 50 sleepers has become a movement, boasting 2,000 just last year. Centrepoint is a resource for homeless youths aged 16 to 25 in the U.K., helping more than 9,000 find homes and jobs. It acts as a stepping stone by teaching homeless youth life skills, providing housing for up to two years, and health support when needed. All that Centrepoint does is budge people onto the right path, steering them towards education and employment.

The success of this type of fundraiser is linked to its humbling activity. Taking volunteers entirely out of their comfort zones, a sleep out forces people to experience the cold and discomfort that a homeless person must deal with. Volunteers address homelessness through experience. The event is one night of uncomfortable tossing and turning. In reality, the harsh bitterness of a night sleeping outdoors is a daily occurrence for far too many.

 Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).