Overnight sleep-out event in Norwich raises awareness of homeless issues

Members of the University of East Anglia Labour society

Members of the University of East Anglia Labour society - Credit: Archant

The third annual Sleep Out event has helped to raise awareness and a considerable amount of money for homeless and disadvantaged young people in the UK.

The event, which was held at the Gibraltar Gardens pub in Norwich last Thursday, is part of a national fundraiser which is held across the UK and in which a group of charities including St Edmunds Society – a skills development project which provides training to enhance future employment prospects and independent living on Oak Street in Norwich – is involved.

On the night, more than 150 people turned up with around 35-40 staying to join 2,000 people around the country in sleeping out, with the aim to raise awareness of homelessness and to experience what it feels like to be outside on a cold winters night which is what 80,000 young homelessness people in the UK experience every year.

Neil Cropper, development officer at St Eds, said: 'We're confident that we've raised a good sum of money to help young people at St Eds. Each charity involved raises money for themselves.

'Many of the young people we help live in the YMCA or sofa surf and we take them on and give these homeless young people the skills they need to get a job so they don't fall back into homelessness.'

Entertainment was provided by a range of sources including students from City College who sung songs and five comedians from Cambridge Fringe.

A local Norwich band lad by Alan Waldron, head of Norfolk Include – an alternative secondary education for young people who have been permanently excluded from mainstream school – played songs which reflected on Mr Waldron's experiences with meeting the homeless and there were visits from Norwich boxer Sam Sexton and Clive Lewis, the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South.

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Mr Cropper added: 'It was a fantastic night. The best thing for us was it got people talking about the issue.

'After the entertainment it was a wet and cold night and people talked about what it must be like to be homeless. It sharpened people's focus on the subject and made them think about young people who do not have a home to go to.'

Lorraine Bliss, CEO of St Edmund's Society, added: 'It was a tough night sleeping out in the wind and rain but that's nothing compared to the situation many homeless young people find themselves in, in Norwich.

'I hope we've raised awareness of the issue and of the crucial work we do at St Eds to give young people the skills to find work and avoid slipping back into the misery of homelessness.'

The society is now looking forward to next year's event, which it hopes to make bigger and better to further raise the issue and awareness of homelessness.

For more information about St Eds, visit http://st-eds.nakedelement.co.uk/

Are you taking part in a fundraising event? Email rebecca.murphy@archant.co.uk