I had a lovely weekend in the warmth of my home, enjoyed time with friends and my husband, watched one of my sons play footy, and relaxed in front of the fire with a nice bottle of wine. After my experience sleeping rough to raise money for Simon on the Streets, a weekend like this is certainly not something I will take for granted again.
Whilst of course the first thing I wanted to do was jump on LinkedIn and talk about my experience, I’m glad I didn’t as I’ve had a lot of thinking time over the weekend. I showed everyone what I will call the slug picture, a photo of me curled up completely inside a sleeping bag, and it hit home for everyone including me what life could be like.
I knew sleeping rough was always going to be a challenge, but I must admit it was not a hardship until the rain hit, then it felt like the experience had begun. Whilst I did manage to get a small amount of sleep, when I awoke my umbrella had blown away and having to retreat out from the warmth of my sleeping bag to retrieve it was a stark reminder of the awful weather conditions. Then came the challenge of getting back into the sleeping bag without getting everything else wet!
We counted down until 5am as anything before that would not have done the evening justice. Awake for hours in what was heavy wind and rain, unable to sleep due to the noise and conditions, clinging to my umbrella so it did not travel without me again, afraid of the wind and rain without it. However, what stood out to me most was the fact I was able to count down the hours until 5am, and if I could last that long a bacon butty would be waiting for me, I could drive home where I could change into dry clothes, my husband would be there to say well done and I could sleep in my own bed. This is not the reality for those who are homeless, and instead they have to deal with the aftermath of their shelter, sleeping bag and all of their belongings being soaked through. How do the homeless dry their belongings when it just keeps on raining, sometimes for days?
Aside from the physical challenges of being homeless, the effect of sleeping rough on mental health cannot be underestimated. Mental health is talked about so much in the workplace and with a house full of teenagers at home, it is something I’m all too aware of. How do you keep sane and positive when it rains and rains, when the wind hits you, and all your belongs, including yourself, are damp. Your stuff blows away, you have nowhere to go and no one to support you, no idea what you will be eating next and where you can sleep.
I can honestly say I wish I had experienced this many years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I have given the homeless food and money in the past, but never really taken the time to understand what they go through each and every day. My biggest take away from the sleep out is the viscous cycle those who are homeless must be in. I take my hat off to anyone who is homeless and surviving, doing their best with all the challenges that are thrown at them.
I am really proud of Victoria and I for taking on the challenge, and lasting the night! I will continue to support Simon on the Streets, and urge those who can to donate so they can continue to help those who need it most.