On 7 October 2016, more than 300 individuals slept on the pavement of Duke of York Square in Chelsea to raise funds for homeless shelters and to highlight challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness.  The event marked Glass Door Homeless Charity’s fourth annual Sleep Out sponsored by the Cadogan Estate. This year's event was the charity’s largest to date and has raised over £150,000.

 

Where the funds raised will go

The funds raised will help Glass Door extend its network of church-based shelters. Last year, Glass Door provided shelter to 254 individuals thanks to its partnership with 17 churches in West London. This year, the charity will be partnering with 25 churches, allowing the charity to shelter at least 85 individuals every night in winter, up from 70 per night.

 

The church-based shelters take turns to open their doors to individuals who have no where else to go. In addition to shelter, guests receive a warm welcome, a hot supper, and the chance to get support to move off the streets for good.

"Thanks to everyone who took part or supported one of the sleepers, we will be able to partner with 25 churches to host shelters this winter," says Steven. "We have a formula that works, and we can now extend our reach to offer shelter and support to more people this winter than ever before."

The need 

On any one night, more than 700 people sleep rough in London1, with local agencies reporting that 8,096 people were homeless in the Capital last year, an increase of 7% from the previous year and more than double than five years ago.

 

Participants

"This is the fourth year we’ve held the Sleep Out with the Duke of York Square, and every year more people step forward to be involved,” says Steven Platts, Glass Door’s Chief Operating Officer.

This year, 22 different local churches sent teams to the Sleep Out. Staff from four different local schools took part (Christ Church Chelsea, Hampshire School, Knightsbridge Kindergarten and Garden House). Four Chelsea Pensioners from the Royal Hospital were in attendance, as were members of a local scout group, work teams and many families and individuals.

 

Eleven-year-old Max, who took part with his mother, says he was glad to participate even though it wasn't easy. Max says:

I could not imagine how a homeless person could sleep on the street every night alone. However, I did learn that you have to be tough, hard and resilient to sleep on the street.

 

Sarah Ferris, a local resident says she enjoyed sharing news of the experience with friends and colleagues. She says: 

Although the night operated in an atmosphere of friendly calm, I still got a sense of the obstacles and hazards of sleeping rough," she says. "My learning from it was instant and will be ongoing. 

George Jerjian heard about the event through his local church, St Mary's in Chelsea. He says: 

One night out in the cold awoke me to the fact that I take so much of our blessings in life for granted, whereas I should be thankful for them, each and every day.

Many returning participants

Steven points out that the charity also draws many returning participants: Twelve individuals have now taken part all four times, and at least 70 individuals have taken part more than once. 

Local estate agents John D Wood & Co. brought the largest team with 33 employees taking part. Area Director Tim Lawler participated for the third year running. Tim adds: 

Since the first time I did this, I get into bed every night and think: ‘I am so lucky’.  Having a safe, decent place to sleep should be a basic human right. I can’t imagine doing this with no end in sight.

Together, their team raised over £10,000.Many of Glass Door’s homeless guests or former guests came by to lend a hand and sleep alongside the participants. Eddie, a former guest who almost died of hypothermia six years ago, signed up and raised funds as a way to give back to the charity he credits with transforming his life. Says Eddie:

 

You can loose hope, but at Glass Door you can find hope. You can address situations and secure your self worth. And you can find help to have a change.... Now I volunteer at Glass Door, helping others in the same way I was helped. We can all make a contribution, and together help to alleviate homelessness. 

Glass Door appreciates all the support offered by the participants, their supporters, the volunteers, and the various businesses that contributed to making the event a success. The event's main sponsor, the Cadogan Estate once again generously offered the use of Duke of York Square and provided security and portable lavatories on the night. Partridges kindly cooked breakfast for all at the crack of dawn. The Pret Foundation provided snacks and beverages, and Tesco sorted tea and coffee.