“Big Night Out” raises over £4,500 for Exeter homelessness charity

On Friday 12th April, 18 intrepid people slept out to raise over £4,500 for St Petrock’s, Exeter’s local homelessness charity, as part of the charity’s first ever #BigNightOut.

The event, in which people were invited to “sleep rough” in their gardens, sheds, on sofas or in the countryside, aimed both to raise awareness of homelessness and the challenges faced by rough sleepers in Exeter, and to encourage people to give financially towards the cost of running the vital services St Petrock’s provides to help rough sleepers survive and find a way off the streets.

Rowan Livingstone, Homelessness Services Manager, said, “this is the first time St Petrock’s has done a sleepout like this, and we have been blown away by the level of support from the community and partner agencies. Our work is totally dependent on the generosity of local people, and once again they have shown how much they care about those in our city for whom basic survival is a daily reality”.

St Petrock’s Director, Peter Stephenson, spent the night in his garden shed and says he found it made him reflect again on the challenges faced by rough sleepers. He says of his experience, “This was just one night. I was safe. I had good shelter from rain or wind. It was a very mild night. There was no risk of being assaulted or abused. I always had the option of heading inside if it got too much. And a hot shower, breakfast and coffee awaited me in the morning.

A million miles away from the experience of rough sleepers

“That is a million miles away from the experience of rough sleepers. For them it is night after night. They are not safe, but vulnerable to abuse and assault. Their shelter is minimal or non-existent. They don’t have the option of going inside if they find it unbearable. And if it weren't for St Petrock's, there would be no coffee, breakfast or shower the next day. An utterly miserable existence.

“What Friday has done for me is re-emphasise the critical importance of St Petrock's’ work - the morning coffee and breakfast delivered by our outreach team, access to showers, laundry, clean clothes, fresh sleeping bags (we gave out over 600 last year). The friendly face offering unconditional and non-judgemental compassion and support. Hot, nourishing home-cooked lunches. Somewhere to come inside for some peace and to escape the constant feeling of being under threat. Somewhere to get help to get back on your feet again.”

Mark Richardson, the Manager of Exeter Foodbank and another participant had similar thoughts after the event, “We, the fortunate ones, are back in at 7am having coffee and warming up, wrapped in blankets. Many people in the city, and the nation, did that for real last night. They slept in tents, and boxes and doorways - and they do not come in to a warm home, with a family.”

Where can you even get a drink of water if you are homeless?

Catriona Fursdon, a trustee of St Petrock’s, spent the night sheltering in an old dovecote with her husband David, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, and dog Zola. Catriona commented afterwards, “It has made me think much more about the practicalities of actually being homeless because you have no choice, as opposed to sleeping out to raise money or to have ‘an interesting experience’. How do people manage to carry their bedding and personal items around with them all day? And how can they stay safe? How do you keep clean without access to a home and a shower like I had? Even the basics like not having a toilet. Where can you even get a drink of water if you are homeless?”

Also taking part were a family with 3 children who spent the night in a treehouse, three people who support homeless people recovering from substance misuse at partner charity Colab Exeter who slept out on Dawlish Warren, a couple who slept in their car in a layby on Dartmoor, as well as others who slept under tarpaulins, in tents or on their floors.

Please donate to support rough sleepers

St Petrock’s relies on donations from members of the public for the majority of its funding. Donations can be made via its website stpetrocks.org.uk.

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