Hi guys. The President of our society, Steph, took part in The Society of St James’ Sleepout. This is her experience of it:
This was my third time attending SSJ’s Sleepout, so for the few weeks before I felt like a seasoned professional. In fact, until one week before, I felt great about it. Then the weather started to turn and I was genuinely worried. I started to dread the SleepOut, thinking that it was going to be a bitterly cold and a long night. It made me think about those who do not have a choice, and what it must be like for someone when they are staying with a friend who wants them out soon, what are they supposed to do? What would they have to do to stay warm? What would I be willing to do?
So, the night came and it was a great evening full of great food and music, with only the slightest undertone of ‘oh dear, what are we in for tonight?’ When it came time for sleeping, everyone seemed to exchange nervous glances at one another. One guy was being interviewed about how he prepared, a group of us listened intently—he had a bed of leaves and cardboard boxes before a small blanket, then his sleeping bag and one more on top. He finished off with a plan to listen to ACDC all night. We laughed and joked about how awful it was going to be. And then it was.
The wind kept cutting into any exposed part of my sleeping bag, I felt vulnerable despite knowing people were around, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to put both earphones in, so I listened to all the Friday night sounds. I worried that my sanitary pad would leak and how cold it would be trying to get up and out to go to the bathroom. I wondered what women do when they are sleeping rough on their periods. How do they manage? I had it for one night and was extremely uncomfortable. I can’t imagine.
I didn’t sleep at all and sat with friend most of the night. We talked and enjoyed each other’s company, breaking up the time with trips to get free coffee and hot water. By about 4:30, I started to feel a bit delirious, tripping over my words and thoughts from pure exhaustion. It made me wonder what it would do to someone’s mental health if they had even a few nights of sleeping rough. What kind of impact would that have on a developing brain, like so many of the young people who face homelessness?
By 5:00, time was crawling by, I wanted so badly to go home. I felt grateful to have a home. Once we had our McDonalds breakfast, we were free to go and the SleepOut had officially finished. It was again, a very humbling experience. It made me want to be more involved and work with local charities. Despite how awful it can be, I will probably be back to do it again next year. I think it’s important to push ourselves and attempt to take other people’s perspectives. Try to keep our compassion.