Gentoo has recently sponsored Susan Ord from our Central Management Committee to take part in Centrepoint’s Everyday Hero North East Sleep Out. As part of the Sleep Out, Centrepoint encourage you to swap your bed for a sleeping bag for just one night to show your support for homeless young people. Centrepoint supports more than 9,200 homeless young people a year, almost a third are under the age of 18.
Susan agreed to share her personal account of her experience at the Sleepout.
Firstly thank you so much to Gentoo for the donation to Centrepoint in support of the Sleepout. It has helped to raise funds and awareness of youth homelessness.
The event took place on Thursday 2 November at the Stadium of Light from 7:00pm until 7.00am the next morning. My son David and I both took part and raised a total of £716.10. Centrepoint has reported that over £21,000 was raised by Friday morning.
The event itself was manageable mainly due to the fact that at least I knew that I could go back to my warm home and bed the next day, but it definitely gave me an insight into the reality that homeless people endure on a daily basis. I attended a session about the mental health issues faced by many young people, and I also attended a session with three young people who had been homeless, and who were brave enough to let us know the reality of sleeping out and how they had managed to make a positive change due to the work and support from Gentoo and Centrepoint. We had street buskers to entertain us until lights down at half twelve and wake up was at 6:00am. However, no matter how much I tried to sleep I was disturbed by the noises of people around me and the cold of sleeping on a concrete floor, even in a sleeping bag. I hardly had any sleep and felt quite tired and ill the next day.
I decided to take part in the Sleepout after speaking to a young homeless person in Blandford Street in the City Centre a few months ago. I was explaining the support and services that Gentoo could provide to him, and after listening to his account of family breakdown and the weeks he had spent waiting for universal credit to be awarded I realised how limited my understanding of the issues he faced was.
When I recently saw a promotion for the Sleepout event with its message "Can you swap your bed for a sleeping bag and help give young people a future?" I thought of him, I thought "yes, why not, and aren't I really lucky to get to choose!" At this time of significant changes in welfare reforms and it's effects on families I feel we must find solutions within our communities to reach out and protect our most vulnerable people. This fundraiser will help young people not only by providing shelter but through a support package to overcome mental health issues, develop new life skills, money management, education and employment.
I had absolutely no hesitation in asking if Gentoo could support my efforts as I know the ethos of the company, and that its reputation as a responsible social landlord across the city is outstanding. I would urge others to take part in future events and will be happy to ensure they have the details for next year's Sleepout or they can contact Centrepoint in Foyle Street directly.
To find out how you can get involved with fundraising for Centrepoint or for more information please visit: https://centrepoint.org.uk