Braving the outdoors to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness

Ahead of the Doncaster CEO Sleepout on 7 October, our Director of Strategy and Delivery, Anthony Fitzgerald explains why he’s supporting such an important event to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness.

I’ve never been camping. I once locked myself out the house, and slept in the shed. It was horrible – afterwards, I spent 3 hours in a hot bath! Now imagine having to do that again and again and night after night – wind, rain or shine, minus the hot bath. That’s what faces a number of people across Doncaster tonight and for the foreseeable future.

They are people of all ages, from differing backgrounds and walks of life. Yet from a privileged position, I have become somewhat blasé that the number of people affected by poverty and homelessness has risen dramatically. People – like you and me – can become homeless for a number of reasons. This can often be a life event such as a relationship breakdown, leaving care or prison. These events can put somebody on a downward spiral, leaving them homeless.

To that end I am trying to play a small part in raising awareness and some money for these people by taking part in CEO Sleep Out in Doncaster on 7 October. CEO Sleepout is a Charity that raises awareness and funds to address homelessness and poverty.  It raises funds by organising sleep-out events across the UK and encourages business leaders and the leadership community to sleep out for a night.  This of course doesn’t solve homelessness on its own, but it reinforces the message across all sectors that decisive action is needed to deal with a deep rooted issue. It is only one night – clearly nothing compared to the crisis that people find themselves in – but it’s my small part. So along with Damian Allen at the Council and other leaders across organisations in Doncaster, I’ll be sleeping under the stars and trying to keep warm.

There’s some great work taking place in Doncaster to try and eradicate the problem of rough sleeping. You may have heard of, worked with or been supported by Doncaster’s Complex Lives Alliance. By front line staff across organisations working together, there has been a significant reduction in rough sleeping across Doncaster. The ambition is to eradicate it entirely. When one considers the story of Sarah*, it is clear what a difference work like this can make.

Sarah* was shy and lacking self-belief when the Changing Lives team in Doncaster first met her. A history of mental health problems had isolated her from society. The team built a trusting relationship and worked with her on self-confidence issues and supported her through her ongoing mental health problems. After a while, Sarah felt ready to make the journey to Changing Lives’ Women’s Centre in Doncaster. With the support of Changing Lives, Sarah seized an opportunity to work supporting other women. She made a real difference, eventually doing home visits and 1-2-1 appointments: changing people’s lives.

Sarah is now working full time. She has a car and drives to work each day. She is much more confident and says she “feels valued and important for the first time in her life.”

So now comes the inevitable ask for your support. I’ve set up a Just Giving page and anything you can donate is greatly appreciated, helping to make a difference to people like Sarah. I will keep people updated on my preparation, which at the moment has gone no further than taking off my suit jacket in the office and our Chief Nurse keeping the air con set to cold!

Many thanks for all your help and support for a great cause.

Anthony

*Sarah is a different name to protect the individuals identity.