Last week, on 9th March, two members of Team Changing Lives joined over 100 others for the fourth annual CEO Sleepout at St. James’ Park. In 2016, £80,000 was raised from Newcastle’s Sleepout, making it the largest Sleepout event outside of London.
Funds raised during the sponsored Sleepout are split between Changing Lives, the Newcastle United Foundation, and CEO Sleepout UK, all with the aim of supporting people who are currently homeless and preventing other people from facing a life on the streets.
Here, Anthony and Billie from Team Changing Lives tell us about the night and why they signed up for the Sleepout.
“This was my first Sleepout that I have participated in. When I saw the application form online for this I did not hesitate to apply. I really wanted to take part in this because it is something I feel passionate about, as I grew up in the care system I was one of the lucky ones to receive help and a home that everyone deserves and I wanted to be able to give something back no matter how big or small it was.
When I arrived I was very nervous because I didn’t know anyone but I was soon introduced to a few people and got talking about all the different jobs people had and why they were taking part. We started the evening by having introductory speeches. Jo Curry from Changing Lives gave a fantastic speech about what Changing Lives do and introduced Matty Bower who gave an inspirational speech of his journey. This alone made me feel sad and happy at the same time, and made me more determined to do more.
After all the speeches I found my spot for the night, chatted to other participants and took in the views of St James Park, for a football fan it was surreal seeing it so quiet. It was a lovely night up until 02.30am where the temperature just seemed to drop – I went through a lot of Bovril!
As I was lying there it got me thinking about all the people that have nights like this on the streets on a regular basis and it gave me a bit of understanding of what it may feel like for someone on the streets. My feet were so cold, even after having 3 pairs of fluffy socks on. I didn’t have a wink of sleep because I was so cold. I walked around the stadium numerous times, just taking in everything thinking how lucky we all were.
I’m very fortunate to, like most of us, have not just a roof over my head, but electricity, running water, and a comfortable bed to sleep in at night. But many people in the North East and around the UK aren’t so lucky.
Every homeless person has their own personal story, they are people just like you and I, and they don’t deserve to have to sleep rough.
Of course sleeping out for this one night does not compare to the reality these people are facing day in and day out, but taking part in this year’s CEO Sleepout was an act of genuine solidarity.
The whole event was organised brilliantly and I will absolutely be taking part again!”
– Billie Jo Fagan, Support Worker at Changing Lives
“This is the second year that I have participated in the CEO Sleepout in Newcastle. I decided to volunteer again after my first experience of the Sleepout after seeing the difference it was making in the lives of people who are homeless in the North East.
In addition to generating charitable donations, I think the event helps to signpost the fact that vulnerable people are sleeping rough. It is easy to make an assumption that in 2017 in an affluent country such as our own this is no longer the case but in reality it is a growing problem and at a time of public spending cuts, it could spiral even further without the efforts of local charities like Changing Lives.
I enjoyed meeting fellow participants at St. James’ Park and felt like I was ‘putting something back’ by taking part. Fortunately, it did not rain this year and the temperature did not drop too low during the night. Although it was managed within the security of a football stadium with access throughout the night to toilets and hot drinks, I think the experience of the CEO Sleepout still enables you to have a better understanding of what it must be like to experience rough sleeping out every night. I felt a real sense of achievement at 6am on completing the event and our reward of a bacon sandwich and a cup of hot coffee had never tasted so good!”
– Anthony Fellows, Assistant Director at Changing Lives
There’s still time to support people who are homeless in Newcastle. Donate to Anthony’s or Billie’s JustGiving pages and help to Change Lives.