Sleeping out for sleeping bags
25 January 17
A simple solution is helping Jackie Fletcher and friends help save those sleeping on the streets from the life-threatening risks of hypothermia. Before Christmas she raised funds on give.net to buy military grade sleeping bags and smashed her original £500 target.
Here’s her fundraising story:
“I decided to fundraise for homeless causes as I see the need becoming greater every day, with so many more homeless people coming from all different walks of life. I know that the two charities we are supporting, Above Us Only Sky and Hope 4 Havering are doing brilliant work with the homeless, but costs are rising all the time. Above Us Only Sky recently shared that, due to rising prices, they have do not have a large enough stock of the military-grade sleeping bags that they give out to the homeless to last the winter. We wanted to do something about this.
I first worked with the homeless over 6 years ago as part of Church Without Walls in Westminster early on a Saturday morning. Homeless people would come over around 7am for a sandwich, hard-boiled egg and a hot cup of tea. They also received a short Bible message, a time of worship and prayer.
Initially, I was nervous but, the more I talked to them the more I realised that there is not a ‘type’ of homeless person. There are some genuinely lovely people who have fallen on hard times or who just struggle to cope in the world. It struck me that, without the support of friends and family, it could be any one of us.
One morning, a guy turned up with a sleeping bag that had been given to him the day before.
It was soaking wet and he was hypothermic, shaking so much that he was unable to even hold a warming cup of tea. It was then that we started searching for a solution.
Above Us Only Sky provides military-grade sleeping bags that are both waterproof and designed to withstand sub-zero temperatures. This means that whatever the weather, someone inside will not develop hypothermia.
The sleeping bags are given out through organisations that are working with the homeless, such as Church Without Walls, the Salvation Army and Teen Challenge. Every winter, we hear testimonies of how these sleeping bags save lives and restore sanity and dignity.
The money raised on our sponsored sleep out will be split between two charities. Above Us Only Sky will use the money in its entirety to purchase more life-saving sleeping bags for the homeless. The second charity, Hope for Havering, run a night shelter, where the homeless receive a hot meal and a place to sleep in a local church hall. The funds will help to finance the running of the shelter, meaning that up to 32 people will not have to sleep on the streets. We spoke to a couple of the guys who stay in the shelter regularly and they are so thankful for the opportunity to eat and sleep indoors.
We decided to do a sponsored sleep out with representatives from both homeless charities, called the Silent Night Sleep Out. (It wasn’t. Silent or sleep-filled…!). This was to serve two purposes: to raise funds and to raise awareness. We spoke to a few of the homeless guys first to make sure that they didn’t mind us joining them. They were brilliant. One bought us a cup of tea “to keep us warm” and another insisted on staying with us and making the area “safe” for us. Such lovely guys.
My friend’s 16-year-old daughter and I took part in the sleep out and we were pretty overwhelmed by the response. So far between us, we have raised almost £1500. When we arrived, and I wondered briefly what on earth I was thinking, it was the thought of the generous financial support and kind comments of our sponsors which helped us through the long, cold night. In a year when there has been such a focus on divisiveness, I have been greatly encouraged to find so much care and concern for people who find themselves in such tough circumstances. Overall it has been a very positive, thought-provoking and humbling experience.