For a decade, hundreds of people braved a freezing cold night late November/early December to bed down for our Big SleepOut event.
Flat-pack boxes, flasks and three or four layers of clothing were all that people had to protect themselves from the elements, as we spent a night under the stars for a mini-taster of what street homelessness might be like.
We always had a wonderfully diverse range of participants; from schools and scout groups to professional organisations, activists and performers. The camaraderie was infectious from the off as we were all reminded of our reasons for gathering together.
The Big SleepOut was as much about raising awareness and having an impact on people as it was about raising money.
Everybody knew that it was nowhere near as bad as being street homeless.
But when the lights go out, and you’re alone in your cardboard box with a sleeping bag and (hopefully) a woolly hat, you suddenly feel very alone and very vulnerable.
It wasn’t a comfy night’s sleep, because it wasn’t meant to be.
Those of us that toss and turn would have limbs aching from resting on the hard ground. A few may have struggled in the cold. A few would have had to get up in the early hours to use the toilet, which is far worse when you’re stepping into the dead of a November/December night.
The point is, it’s such a vivid experience – both physically and emotionally – that it drives people on to make more noise, take more action and draw more people into the campaign against homelessness.
So many street homeless people become invisible: the dehumanisation that they face from every angle is intolerable when confronted.
Before lights out, we had “busking” performances from bands; spoken word from poets, thumping DJ sets from ‘90s icon Brandon Block, and speeches from well-known people such Russell Brand and the mayor.
Every year, we also had testimonials and stories from some of the people that Trinity have had the pleasure of working with; people who did bed down in the freezing cold for real, and who’ve gone on to see their lives improve drastically.