More than 170 people who raised £40,000 for Northampton Hope Centre by sleeping rough for the night have been described as ‘humbling’ and ‘inspirational’.
The fund-raisers slept in cardboard boxes in below freezing temperatures for the annual Big Sleep Out, which this year took place outside the Park Cafe in Abington Park.
The Big Sleep Out is an annual event to raise funds for the Northampton Hope Centre.
Instead of tents, they had to sleep in cardboard shelters and use only plastic sheeting, blankets and layers to stay warm.
Some shelters were able to hold up to ten people, while others did not sleep and only wrapped up and stayed awake all night.
The Big Sleep Out ran from 7.30pm to 7.30am. The Park Cafe was open all night serving hot drinks, soup and sandwiches, and first aid teams were on hand.
Rachel Hall, 26, a secondary school English teacher, said, on the night: “We’re sleeping on a few sheets of tarpaulin and what used to be a sale sign for a tile store. 170 people gathered on Abington Park to sleep in cardboard boxes.
“I saw a little poster for it and I thought, ‘that sounds like a great idea.’ Now it’s freezing cold and I can’t sleep. But I’m here with some of my girl guides troop, so we can get on with it. We’ve raised £1000 between us.”
Stuart Townsend, 38, a new business manager for Barclaycard, said: “My first attempt at a shelter is a mess. “I’m here for a bit of a laugh and to raise awareness for homelessness. It’s not like real rough sleeping because we have the cafe open all night but it will give me a new appreciation for the people I see on the streets. “I don’t know whether I should give to people on the streets. I sometimes think, ‘is this person just trying to scam me?’ I’d rather give them something like food or tea.”
Michael Timkin, 74, was once homeless himself. He was the oldest person at the event.
Temperatures dropped to -2 degrees centigrade and there were short showers as the night went on.
Michael Timkin, 74, from Gladstone Road, was the oldest person sleeping out on the night.
He said: “I used to be homeless myself when I was younger and I’ve slept on Northampton streets. I remember nights when there was snow up to your knees. I know a lot of people sleeping out there right now too. “Without a doubt, the worst part about sleeping out is the drugs and alcohol problem. A lot of people are addicted and they will do anything for more drugs. They will sell their souls for their fix. “Everybody is not perfect and we all make mistakes. The people sleeping rough have made more mistakes than anybody.”
Northampton Borough Councillors Mary Markham, Stephen Hibbert and James Hill get comfy for the night. The Northampton Hope Centre is a charity that helps shelter and feed homeless people and are working to end the town’s rough sleeping problem.
Adrian Pryce, chairman of the Northampton Hope Centre, said: “I’m so pleased with the turnout. We have 170 people out here, which is a record for the Big Sleep Out. It’s our single biggest fundraiser event of the year and the support we’ve had has been very encouraging. “We see 100 clients a day at the Hope Centre, and some 1,200 a year. We word not only to alleviate homelessness but also prevent it and help reintegrate our clients and get them off the streets for good. “I’d like to say a massive thank you to the Northampton public for participating, and to everyone supporting them tonight with their donations.” Some of the cafe staff stayed up all night to serve participants.
Councillor Tony Ansell, who owns The Park Cafe, said: “The thing about homeless people is they are still my constituents. This is a way to help them properly and at the end of the day, it’s about raising funds for and raising the profile of the Northampton Hope Centre. Staff of the Park Cafe with Councillor Tony Ansell, middle, stayed up all night to cater to participants. “I have been successful in life and it’s nice to give a bit back. I’m very fortunate for the life I live. The homeless are not that fortunate. “Rough sleeping is a serious problem in the town but we can solve it. I think it’s wonderful for everyone to come out in the extreme conditions and each and every one of them deserves to be applauded.”
Mariah Harrold, 17, a barista at the Park Cafe, said: “I’m here until 4am, and some of us are working all night long. “It’s been a good evening. Everyone has been very friendly and very polite. It’s freezing cold out there so we’re serving lots of tea coffee.”
Councillor Mary Markham, a trustee of the Northampton Hope Centre, also slept out on Abington Park on the night. She said: “It’s been a very successful evening. It’s great that so many people support the Northampton Hope Centre and the great work they. “It’s funding they badly need to keep doing the great work they do. They’ve set a target of £40,000 but even that’s only 10 per cent of their yearly running costs.”
Robin Burgess, chief executive officer of the Northampton Hope Centre, said: “It’s been a brilliant evening. The majority of our fundraising comes from the public, and we always raise enough to keep us going. “170 people have come out tonight to experience just a little of what it’s like to be homeless. It’s inspiring and humbling. “Anyone can end up homeless. And there are people here tonight who have been through it. Some people think it’s always drugs and alcohol but it happens for so many reasons. The landlord puts the rent up. Their husband punches them and they run away. Their parents kick them out. It doesn’t take a minute for it to happen. “I would say don’t give your money to homeless people. Please, give it to charities instead where it can be spent in effective ways. If you want to give them something, give them food and something to drink.”
A night shelter for rough sleepers, a Northampton Borough Council project which has been delayed since December, will open its doors on February 6.