Sixty York business leaders came together this week to experience one night sleeping outdoors to raise money and awareness to fight homelessness in the city’s first CEO Sleepout. Kay Frances was there
Swapping their suits for jeans and briefcases for sleeping bags, they arrived at York Racecourse clutching cardboard, pillows, hats, gloves and camping mats.
York had a lot to live up to – Newcastle raised over £100,000 at its event earlier this month and more than 100 people took part.
Everyone had different motivations for getting involved in the event on Monday (April 16) but at its heart was a desire to help the homeless in the city.
Mebs Surve, MD at technology company Swift Analytical and an associate director at York Mosque, explained how he first came to get involved.
“We’re one of the richest countries in the world,” he said. “Homelessness shouldn’t be happening. At the mosque we’ve been raising funds as part of the UK Islamic Mission to support the homeless.
“I feel guilty that I will be going home to a comfortable bed and this feels tiny compared to what homeless people have to do day in day out.
“But I’m looking forward to see how we as a community can improve things. Even praying for everyone,” added the city boss.
Rain and high winds
Although the weather promised to smile on the city’s business folk, by midnight rain and high winds were making sleep difficult for some.
Managing director of Make It York Steve Brown said: “I didn’t get any sleep. There was noise from the nearby traffic, people were snoring and there’s so much lighting around you.
“I’m really glad I did it if it helps get some support to people who need it the most.”
William Derby, chief executive, York Racecourse, came well prepared for the event, with a sleeping bag, hat, two pillows and a plentiful supply of cardboard to keep the cold at bay.
“I raided the racecourse skip,” he said. “I was really not looking forward to that cold pre-dawn damp feeling but I’m looking forward to seeing everyone come together to raise money and awareness for homelessness.”
The CEO Sleepout charity was set up in 2013 by businessman Andy Preston from Middlesbrough.
The first event held in the North East was such a success that ‘Sleepouts’ were rolled out across the country but it’s the first time it has been held in York.
Funds are still coming in and so far the total raised for the York event is £27,500 and organisers are confident it will reach £30,000.
“The money raised will do incredible things for vulnerable people struggling with poverty and homelessness,” said national CEO Sleepout coordinator Bianca Robinson.
“Despite the discomfort and lack of sleep for the night we hope everyone enjoyed the experience and will look in a more sympathetic way at those who endure sleeping rough night after night.”
“We work with people at both ends of the spectrum. Scooping up people off the streets, as well as seeking out young people who cannot otherwise be reached, they may have experienced trauma and we work with other charities who help rough sleepers.”
Funds raised from the York event will go to Changing Lives, who work at the frontline of homelessness and rough sleeping provision in York.
Chill in the Community and other local good causes including the York Foodbank and the Samaritans will benefit too and some funds will also go to the national CEO Sleepout charity to enable its work nationally.
Bianca added: “Absolutely all the money raised is going to go to people who need it in York to help them rebuild their lives.”
Did you know?
There are 117 beds available in York for homeless people.
320 people in York are currently being supported by Changing Lives.
Chill In The Community brings together struggling individuals and families and helps with a whole range of support, building self-confidence and offering practical help in the form of food parcels.
25 people per day use the service.
20-30 food parcels are delivered to families each week.
There’s still time donate to the York CEO Sleepout.
To donate to Steve Brown go here
To donate to William Derby go here
To donate to Mebs Surve go here
You can see the York fundraising leaderboard on the CEO Sleepout site