Charity workers spend night on the street to raise awareness of homelessness

YORK Road Project took to the streets of Woking last week as part of its Sleep In, Sleep Out initiative for World Homeless Day.

“Seven of us slept out on Friday night,” said Cherisse Dealtry, chief executive of the charity that supports the homeless. “We set up outside Spaces, by the railway station, and bedded down around midnight.

ROUGHING IT – Cherisse, Kristina and Stephen from York Road Project prepare to sleep out in Woking town centre

“We kept the numbers small so we could be COVID secure. We did, though, have many participate from home; they slept in while we slept out.”

The public were asked to leave their bedroom for a night to sleep on the floor in another room, or even in the garden, to raise awareness of homelessness.

Cherisse added: “It was a long night, most of us didn’t sleep. The temperature was mild until 4am when a thick fog descended on the town and made everything damp and cold.

“What struck us most was how invisible we became to revellers, how many passed us without really seeing us. It’s hard to explain how hard it must be not knowing where you are going to sleep at night. To experience what it is like for our clients gives us a small insight to how unsafe and scary it is.

“Those of us who did try and sleep maybe had 10 to 15 minutes at most. Most of us stayed awake just waiting for the morning.

LIFE ON THE STREET – York Road Project clients Jamie, left, and Chris, right, with outreach staff Mia, front left, and Lucy

“Morale was high at the start, we were live on Radio Woking, sharing stories. We also released a film celebrating 20 years as a registered charity. But by 3am morale had begun to wane, the pubs and clubs had emptied and there was a continuous flock of people heading home in taxis.

“By 5am we were all up and trying to find a place that served warm drinks. We packed up and left for home at 6am, glad to be going back to warm beds.

“Street Angels came to check on us throughout the night, and we were in awe of the amazing job they do in making sure people are safe on nights out.

“I can’t imagine waking up in the morning and spending my day wondering where I am going to sleep that night. We were lucky it stayed dry most of the night and it wasn’t freezing. Imagine sleeping out in the rain in a doorway.

 “I’m glad we are here, offering a service to those who need it.”

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