Preparations for the Big Calderdale Sleep Out had gone well during the day, with the RAF Regulars and Reserves setting up their field kitchen and gazebos.
But as the evening drew in the wind and rain arrived. With 40mph winds forecast to hit at the point that participants were due to arrive, a decision was made to take down the gazebos and move the registration and stage underneath the Piece Hall arches.
Chris Walker, CEO of Calderdale SmartMove said “We’re thrilled that so many people took part in our Big Sleep Out event. The weather is something we can’t control and whilst we would have liked it to stay fine, the bad weather did help to demonstrate the harsh realities that many rough sleepers have to endure. They don’t get to stay at home if it’s wet and cold.”
The heavy rain also resulted in some funny moments.
“We were keen to welcome everyone and give them an opportunity to hear from SmartMove client, Paul Manger, but rather than making everyone stand in the pouring rain we took over the Piece Hall’s tannoy system so it was broadcast across the building,” said Chris. “It was a bit like something from Hi-di-Hi.”
The size of the event has grown year-on-year with this year being the biggest so far.
“The popularity of this event just goes to show that homelessness is an issue many people in the community feel deeply about,” said Chris.
Robin Tuddenham, CEO of Calderdale Council who took part in the event said “What we’re trying to do is raise the profile of homelessness because we know that organisations like SmartMove are critical to giving people a new chance, tackle homelessness and do the best for our residents.”
The participants were entertained in the evening by local artist, Jimbo Lynch and provided with hot food by a field kitchen put on by the RAF Regulars and Reserves before they bedded down for the night with little more than a ground sheet and sleeping bag, and a few tents.
Chris added: “We’d like to thank everyone that took part in the event and those who helped with the organisation including The Piece Hall, RAF, Jimbo Lynch, volunteers from Nestle, Calder Rotary and Lloyds Banking Group and other local charities and businesses.”
“It is particularly poignant that we had the RAF supporting us on the evening given the 100th Anniversary Remembrance weekend. We know there are links between PTSD and homelessness. At SmartMove we have dedicated support workers who work with homeless people suffering from mental health issues, including veterans.”
The event has already raised over £12,000 with more expected to come in over the coming weeks from fundraisers. This goes towards maintaining the service that SmartMove provides to support homeless and vulnerably housed individuals and families across Calderdale.
Anyone who wants to show their support for the event and the work of SmartMove can donate here: http://mydonate.bt.com/events/bigcalderdalesleepout2018
Or text SMART to 70660 to donate £3. Texts cost £3 plus the normal text cost. The full donation goes to Calderdale Smartmove. Bill payer’s permission is required.