Rough night on heath highlights Norwich homelessness
While most of us were tucked up in bed, a group of 20 people braved the elements and bedded down for the night on makeshift cardboard mattresses and tatty blankets in front of the Britannia Café in support of Christian charity Hope Into Action.
The Big Sleep Out event was organised by Hope into Action, a local charity that provides supported housing for homeless people in our city. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of the increasing problem of homelessness in Norwich and to raise much needed funds for the work they do to address this issue.
At least 8 Christian churches and organisations were represented on the sleepout - which took place on October 13 - and between them they read the whole book of Psalms twice throughout the night as a prayer over the city.
Although designed to offer an insight into the struggles faced by people without a home, the event provided only a glimpse of the reality.
Empowerment worker, Dani Horsfall was part of the group who bedded down on mousehold heath. She said, “It was cold, uncomfortable, there was a bitter wind, it was slightly scary and I don’t think we got much solid sleep…I found it fine, but I had the knowledge that I could go home to a warm bed, a bath, a hot meal and loved ones. I can’t imagine how terrifying a gruelling it must feel to have to do this day in, day out.”
As winter approaches Norwich is seeing record numbers of homeless people on its’ streets. Recent figures show that 34 people sleep rough in Norwich every night compared to 13 people in 2013. In a time of significant cuts, the demand for charities such as Hope into Action is greater than ever.
Co-ordinator Kate Doran-Smith said, "The money raised is still coming in and we hope to hit over the £1000 mark which is of vital importance to us as a small charity as we move to open the 8th house in the coming weeks. As always, our fundraising initiatives are not just about finances – we are dedicated to educating and encouraging others to engage with the issues of local poverty and homelessness in Norwich."
"The fabulous chats at 2am between different congregations and the feedback from a local church leader that an 8 year old participant had shared his sleep out experience with the church the following morning and encouraged them to support HIA, are proof that God continues His battlecry from Luke 4 to an army of believers to ‘bring good news to the poor…to see the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ Yet again, I was honoured to work alongside friends and strangers alike in what was an enlightening and uplifting experience.”
A number of Hope into Action tenants spoke of their experiences at the event, their stories reiterating the desperate need for homeless services. One of them said:
“My eldest son died, my marriage broke up and my life went on a downward spiral. I fell through the net, wasn’t claiming benefits, lost my home, my job and lived in a garden shed for 2 years. I didn’t know how to re-engage with services but with the support of Hope into Action I have regained my confidence to engage again.”
Hope into Action has other regional branches and recently opened their 50th house, meaning that 120 people are now currently housed under their care.
For more information please visit www.hopeintoaction.org.uk or if you would like one of the team to speak at your church contact firstname.lastname@example.org