On Saturday 2nd March 2013 Southend YMCA hosted its first major fundraising event, Sleep Easy; sleeping rough for 12 hours at our head office on Ambleside Drive to raise awareness of youth homelessness and to raise money through sponsorship. Early estimates show that over £10,000 was raised.
We have been completely overwhelmed by the response with over 65 participants arriving, including teams from Goldwyns, Southend Borough Council, Leigh Town Council, Southend Echo Newspaper, South Essex Homes, Olympus Keymed and more.
Everyone who attended was given a cardboard box for the night (as supplied by The Big Yellow Self Storage) and a welcome presentation. Those that used twitter were encouraged to post photos and updates using the hashtag #SleepEasySouthend throughout the night. You can see the night through social media by clicking here.
Live performances were given from David Crix & Mick Denny from Rhythm Shack around a little campfire (which really got going thanks to Dave from The Echo!) and the team from Axis Theatre Company – the atmosphere was electric.
The site could be likened to a refugee camp with cardboard boxes littered across the car park. It was an amazing community of people that had come together to support a common cause.
A group of dedicated volunteers had spent the last few weeks building and assembling a 7x7ft cardboard box (entirely made out of cardboard and newspaper) as a video booth for participants to record a video diary of their experiences. People came in to laugh, cry, dance, sing and talk seriously about their reasons for taking part. The video once edited will be posted over on our Youtube account (click here).
The hours ticked by and the temperature dropped; degree by degree, until it hit minus 4. One by one people went to their boxes, got their blankets, sleeping bags, newspaper covers, and tried to get some sleep; frost having already set on everything that had been left outside.
A team of volunteers and participants had opted for the no-sleep approach, either to make sure that everyone was provided with hot drinks because it was too cold to sleep.
In the morning bacon butties were provided and everyone had made it through until the morning with Pastor Dave leading a reflection of the night before.
It wasn't even 7am yet, but there was a new atmosphere that surfaced during the clear up. As damp cardboard boxes were piled into the recycling bins and blankets folded up, we knew we had all been part of something special, a shared feeling that we had a new understanding of what the homeless go through night after night. We had done it with entertainment, friends, family, hot drinks and under supervision. We had never been more grateful for what we have in our lives than after those 12 hours.