Big Night Out-The Churches of St Margaret's Benefice
47 46 That's the average life expectancy of someone who is homeless in the UK (source: NHS). It has recently been recalculated and continues on a downward trajectory. That isn't just for rough sleepers, that includes the sofa-surfers, those in hostels and other homeless situations. It's even lower if you are female at just 42.
Quite shocking isn't it?
Well, finally, all the money had been collected in, Gift Aid calculated and cheques written and it was time to deliver the good news to our three benficiaries. We wanted to visit and hand over the donations personally, so that we could meet the people we have been incontact with via email for so long, or only met briefly, and see and hear for ourselves about the work they all do for the homeless and extremely vulnerable people who share our villages, towns and cities. In the end, we were delighted to hand over £761 to each charity, which is a testament to your amazing support of our small event.
So on Tuesday 5th June Rebecca and Vivienne went up to Canterbury to the Catching Lives day centre, where we would meet Graeme Solley (project manager there) and his colleagues, along with Rachel van Hoven from Porchlight, who came over to meet with us at the same time. We were given a real insight into what they do, how they do it, what they offer at the day centre (so much more than just a place to get a meal), the problems and issues they encounter and how they see the future situation. Tuesday was a typical day, not exceptionally busy, the weather was good, but they still had 31 people come through their doors for breakfast and lunch, and all the other services they offer. The passion and compassion from Graeme and his colleagues was evident, as was the very real and complex challenges and hurdles they have to negotiate to help people take those next steps in their lives out of homelessness. Your donations will make a real contribution to what they do - for Catching Lives it will pay their food bills for a month, for Porchlight it could be the deposit and first month's rent to get someone on the housing ladder.
Friday 8th June was our turn to go and see Vee Bently and Noel Beamish down at Dover Outreach Centre, and we were warmly welcomed with coffee and excellent chocolate biscuits! We had an extremely interesting and informative hour and a half with them, talking about what they do, how they do it, and it was interesting to see how each of the three charities came at the issue from a slightly different angle depending on their practical ability to make a difference. The support Vee and Noel give to each other was also evident, in what can be an emotionally draining environment. Your donations will really help with the practical running costs of DoC, keeping it open for all those that choose to walk through its doors.
Handing over the cheques to Rachel (Porchlight) and Graeme (Catching Lives), and Vee & Noel (Dover Outreach Centre).
We did it! The Intrepid Eight (l to r) Henry, Rev'd Diane, Barbara, Vivienne, Stuart, Rebecca, Jane and Liz. Enjoying the sound of the waves and gentle conversation as we pondered out task ahead. More photos to follow!
With the support of Dover District Council, we set up camp to spend the night outdoors down in St Margaret's Bay, and to say we had our fingers crossed for a better weekend of weather than we had been having, was an understatement. But then again, if we were homeless, we wouldn't have had the choice, so actually, we really were prepared to go whatever the weather, unless someone official said otherwise. Lucky for us, the most we had to contend with was a rain shower and drizzle, and some raucous herring gulls at 5am. We didn't have to fear late-night revellers looking for a bit of 'amusement' at our expense, hostility from passers-by or being used as a toilet because someone thinks that's all we're worth.
We just had to make sure that we weren't reported for squatting!
We had a thoughtful evening as the sun went down, until it was time to bed down for the night. We were in a variety of shelter - four in two small tents, three wrapped up in the open and one inside the upturned boat, all representing realistic means of finding shelter for the night.
Emerging into the early morning crisp air, we were all bleary-eyed but proud that we'd completed our challenge.
We all survived the night with varying degrees of sleep - fits and starts mostly, alert to every noise or voice you might hear. It makes you realise how on edge people must feel sleeping on the streets, how there is no real chance of a decent night's rest. We were up and about at dawn and were more than delighted to welcome Terry in his campervan, as he had volunteered to come down and make us breakfast - and boy, what a breakfast! We were royally treated to juice, tea, coffee, cereal, bacon, scrambled eggs, beans, sausages, rolls, and we could have had toast as well if we had had any room! It really made us think just how grateful gifts of warm food are, when you have no means of feeding yourself, and actually how vital they are in fuelling you up ready for a day when you've had little sleep. With poor sleep and no prospect of breakfast, it is little wonder how many homeless people can do no more than sit still - how can you have the energy to even think straight?
Enjoying our breakfast courtesy of the amazingly generous hospitality of Terry - and his fantastic cooking!
The consequences of no housing and uncertain mealtimes has such a devastating impact on your physical and mental health, it makes that shocking 47 not quite so incomprehensible afterall. That's why anything we can do to support those in place to act on behalf of the homeless is so important, and why we are so incredibly grateful for your sponsorship of this event. Thank you.
Porchlight (www.porchlight.org.uk) has been the leading homeless charity in Kent for 40 years, and offer a wide range of services to children, young people and adults.
Dover Outreach Centre (www.doveroutreachcentre.org.uk) offers opportunities for socially isolated groups such as the homeless and vulnerable to receive a wide range of services and support at the centre, and works with a host of other agencies to coordinate help.
Catching Lives (www.catchinglives.org) is an independent charity aimed at supporting the rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerably housed in Canterbury and East Kent.
Your fundraising can make all the difference. It could pay the electricity bill of the DOC – any idea how much electricity toasters use, when they are on the go all morning, every morning? If you are homeless and cold, your shower is not likely to be the regulation 5 minutes. Need clean clothes? Washing powder isn't free.
Your amazing support has enabled us to raise £2,135 , which means each charity will be able to receive a cheque for £711 - that is far more than we hoped we would be able to raise, even when we had our "let's be really optimistic" hats on! Thank you all so much, and remember, you can continue to support these charities via their own web pages.