A night on the streets of Blackpool to show the reality of a growing problem
Volunteers from a Blackpool charity spent the night sleeping rough to raise awareness about homelessness among young people.
Every year, youth charity Streetlife organizes a ‘Big SleepOut’ where volunteers spend the night on the streets of Blackpool – specifically in St John’s Square in the town centre. The last event took place on Friday March 25 with 100 participants in the name of fundraising for homeless youth.
This follows another SleepOut the charity held in October which saw 150 participants raise £15,000. However, that number was eclipsed by the 2019 event which raised £43,000.
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Streetlife CEO Jane Hugo told LancsLive: “For the past six years, apart from 2020, we have held the Big SleepOut in Blackpool town center to raise money for young homeless people. We let’s do this on purpose in March because the weather is usually pretty bad and we want to give people a realistic idea of what it’s like for homeless people.
“Obviously it’s not the same thing because you can go home and take a nice hot shower or make yourself an infusion but it works well as a taster. All kinds of people volunteer to participate, local businesses, members of the public who are concerned about homelessness, police cadets and young people who benefit from our services.
“This year was different because it wasn’t raining but there was a contrast between people getting sunburn during the day but the nights were extremely cold. It was very cold when we spent the night in Blackpool, but because we do it through choice and not because we have to, I think it really touches the participants.
“One year a participant made a good point saying that the temperature being five degrees was crazy because that’s what most people have their fridges for.”
The Big SleepOut idea started with a former Streetlife volunteer, Zanetta Powell. When she left her involvement with the charity, she got in touch with her idea of how to raise money and awareness about youth homelessness.
Jane continued: “Zanetta launched the first event and we raised £5,000 that year and it only gets bigger and better each time. We’ve run six events now and raised £108,000 at the total.
“While we are there, we have teas, coffees and sleeping bags ready for all the truly homeless people we encounter when we are there. We also take the opportunity to report them to various organizations during that we are there so they know where to get the support they need.”
Streetlife is a charity that provides support, shelter and guidance to vulnerable young people in the area. They help young people up to the age of 26 with their various avenues of support, including the Day Centre, the Night Shelter and La Base.
Their support comes through an ‘assessment wheel’, where staff look at all areas of the young person’s life, including their physical health, whether they are registered with a GP, financial management, mental health, relationships, employment, education and training. . Jane said: “Every individual is different and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to helping people – some young people have qualifications and degrees and some struggle to read and write, but we help them with what ‘they need.’
Other events planned for the charity this year include their 30th anniversary celebrations, with the Night Shelter opening in 1992. “Turning 30 is quite bittersweet because 30 years ago we ‘wouldn’t have thought that our services to combat them would be necessary,’ explained Jane.
“Princess Diana actually opened the center for us and we also had a visit from Princess Anne. Although it is sad that we are still needed, we will be here for as long as people need our services and we are grateful to be able to do this.”
The amount raised by Streetlife’s Big SleepOut 2022 will be announced on Good Friday – you can donate to the cause by visiting their website here.