An Appco Group UK employee slept rough on the streets of London last weekend in support of the Sleep with Simon Campaign.
Jamie Whelan, services administrator, has always volunteered at homeless shelters and felt like it was time to take it one step further. He decided to sleep rough because it would give him a first-hand insight into homelessness and the struggles that are connected to it.
Leading up to the event, the director of the programme had to step down from his post quite unexpectedly and, as a result, the sleep-out was set to be called off. However, Jamie decided that it was too much of a good cause to not run the fundraising event.
In fact, local agencies report 8,096 people slept rough in London alone throughout 2015/16. This is a six per cent rise on the previous year, and more than double the figure of 3,673 in 2009/10.
With alarming stats like this in mind, Jamie took over organising the charity sleep-out.
Before the event, Jamie said he was not expecting it to be easy, but he was confident he had the support to make it through the evening. The team would be sleeping rough from 8 pm to 8 am.
Together with 10 other volunteers, Jamie laid out cardboard on the ground at Trafalgar Square corner and settled down for the night.
‘We had a few people come up to us and ask us what we were doing; we also had verbal abuse and even had to move locations at one point,’ says Jamie. ‘It makes you realise just how unsafe and vulnerable homeless people are.’
Jamie raised over £700, which is £200 over his initial target of £500 and is overjoyed with his results. ‘And the Just Giving page is still up and running!
‘The experience has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be homeless. It is one thing knowing or seeing there are homeless people. But when you are out there, in the cold, sleeping on the floor, you begin to see how bad it is. No one chooses to live that way, so I think it is important that we help and it is also important that we appreciate what we have.’