It all started last year when I asked colleagues to donate £5 to Social Bite rather than do the traditional Secret Santa. You will all know by now that I’m no Grinch but buying someone a hot meal on Christmas day rather than receiving a novelty gift just made sense. Thankfully people agreed, family and friends took the idea to their workplaces too.
Meanwhile, I had heard about Social Bite Sleep the Park in Edinburgh and read about the action being taken due to the incredible amount of money raised. The money raised made a real difference, for every ten people that slept out, they leveraged one permanent home and helped to put in place a support structure.
So this year I decided to get involved. I am always cold, a grumpy bitch when tired and have never even been camping but I knew I wanted to be part of such a great cause. I wasn’t alone, I was joined by other Glasglow Girls Club members and it was really reassuring knowing we had each other’s backs.
I can’t lie though as the event approached and the Winter weather kicked in so did my panic.
This panic quickly turned into guilt. Here I am buying (surprisingly expensive) waterproof and thermal clothing for one night when people who really sleep rough don’t have that luxury nevermind the fact I’d be going home to a warm bed afterwards.
There was security, first aid, food and hot drinks available – another unrealistic luxury. Before we settled down for the night we were treated to performances from KT Tunstel, Amy Macdonald, Frightened Rabbit and Biffy Clyro – an absolute privilege. In between sets we heard from co-founder Josh and from those who have been able to turn their lives around thanks to the opportunity that Social Bite provided, a great reminder of why I had signed up to take part.
It was horrible to listen to the stories of people who were made to feel invisible after being dealt terrible cards in life to only then be failed by the system. Stories of people being put in the child care system following abuse to only end up on the streets by mid to late teens, how can that possibly be fair?
Homelessness doesn’t always mean sleeping rough, people can find themselves in shelters, temporary accommodation or sleeping on friends couches.
The reality is homelessness can happen to anyone. I have been made redundant more than once and if it hadn’t been for the financial and emotional support of my amazing friends and family I can only imagine just how differently my life may have turned out simply by a stroke of bad luck.
Walking back to our sleep out zone the reality really hit as I could see my cold breath and my bag was damp and muddy. I had been so worried about being cold that I hadn’t even thought about how uncomfortable sleeping on the ground would be. Between the cold and being so uncomfortable I didn’t sleep a wink and found myself really hungry during the night, likely because my body was using up so much energy to keep warm.
Then at 6am I headed home cold, tired, sore and hungry. Meanwhile, others sleeping rough would have to do it all again tonight and that’s without the luxury of layers, security etc. Sleep in the Park gave me a tiny insight to how it must feel to sleep rough and fuck me it must be truly terrifying.
So far I have raised £662.50 in sponsorship and there is still time to donate right up until Christmas Eve:
I hadn’t intended to blog about last night but I really wanted to share my experience and this post to act as a reminder that while we enjoy every indulgence the season has to offer, there are so many people who lack the basic things we take for granted every single day.
You can make a difference. You don’t have to give money. Give your time. Do whatever you can to make someone else’s Christmas a bit brighter.
Big Christmas Hugs,