Sleeping with Simon

As the days become shorter and the nights colder, the minds of many turn to Christmas and the festivities ahead. For some, this is also a time to think about those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s well documented that at this time of the year the charities who help the homeless and rough sleepers have no shortage of help in the lead up to Christmas but the cold, wind and rain doesn’t stop on the 25th of December.

Recently 92 people took the opportunity to find out what it’s like to sleep rough during Simon on The Streets’ Sleeping with Simon event. However, they did so in a controlled environment at the Royal Armouries Tilt Yard, so that everyone was kept safe, which is so much more than Leeds’ rough sleepers might expect. They just hope they can stay safe and at this time of year, warm enough each night. This annual sleep out event is held so that people understand what it’s like to be open to the elements, to take the opportunity to discuss homelessness and rough sleeping in the City and of course raise some much-needed funding.

During the sleep out evening, everyone, courtesy of Red Ladder Theatre’ Co, watched their most successful sell-out show, Shed Crew, which is set around the Leeds East End Park in the 1990s. Also, Richard McCann spoke about the hardships he and his sisters endured in the aftermath of their mother being the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’s’ first victim. Horrendous in itself, you say, but the children were then passed from one violent and abusive home to another. Richard knew he had to find a way for them to survive; a way to restore some hope for them all. You can read their story in ‘Just a Boy’, described as a poignant and heart-rending tale.

Individual groups then designed a banner, the winners Jess and Laura, who are both PhD students in Leeds.

Hats off to the organisers and to all who supported this event which raised £15,400. Their fund-raising was enhanced by the people who gave practical help for the sleep out, and we would like to give credit to them here:

  • Jim Vincent of The Royal Armouries for the use of Tilt Yard.
  • Red’s True Barbecue for sleeping out and a much appreciated 5 a.m. breakfast.
  • Icelolly Travel for providing registration staff.
  • Forge Recycling for the bins.
  • Lynne of Approach PR for sleeping out and hours of valuable work.
  • Jill of The Bean Rover for sleeping out and warming hot drinks.
  • Global Tribe Cafe who provide soup every week and provided it for everyone on the sleep out.
  • Sam Toolsie, who is a volunteer for the charity and took the photographs.

What of the future?

This problem is one of the most complex and challenging we face in society today. There is no easy answer because everyone you meet on the street is different, their circumstances are different; there is no one size fits all solution here. Who knows? One day someone might come up with a way forward that works, but in the meantime, people like those who work for or support charities such as Simon on The Streets keep on trying.

The prediction is that the number of rough sleepers on Leeds’ streets could increase by up to 78% in the next ten years. For anyone who currently spends time walking our City streets, you’ll no doubt understand and frankly be shocked at what that could look like.

Right now the charity is looking to raise sufficient funds to appoint an additional outreach worker. Their workers are vital to the efforts the charity makes. They help those who in the early hours can be seen sleeping on the streets and in any nook or cranny which offers some degree of shelter. They are not volunteers, they are well trained and have the expertise and the experience to know those with genuine needs who quite simply have no other place to go and lack the ability to help themselves. People with these skills need to be paid, which is one of the primary reasons why Simon on the Streets needs to raise money each year.

So what can we do? Well, just like puppies, Outreach Workers are not just for Christmas, they need paying for all year around but at this time of year people often feel a little more charitable so it’s a good time to act. If you want to help out then Simon On The Streets are encouraging people to get involved with a Christmas Prize Draw, either by buying or selling tickets or if possible offering prizes for the draw. As always you can always make a donation.

Please contact tom@simononthestreets.co.uk for more details. Your contribution, in any form, will help Simon On The Streets continue the level of support which means so much to those who need it the most.