‘When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water’

This famous quote from Benjamin Franklin became particularly poignant last week when some of the MK team took part in a sleep out in aid of Sheffield-based youth homelessness charity, Roundabout.

Before I continue, let’s get this straight. It was one night. In a pretty controlled environment – quite far removed from the harsh realities of really ‘sleeping rough’. Some say these events are patronising to those who really face homelessness every day but I like to think that the cash (and indeed awareness) raised as a result of such events somewhat silences those views.

Thankfully, it wasn’t a particularly cold night but let’s just say I was pleased I had remembered a hat!

Roundabout is a fantastic, Sheffield-based charity that helps homeless young people get access to shelter, support and skills – a great cause and one I feel strongly about. I’m not naturally inclined to take part in charity run after charity run, so I jumped at the chance to make a difference in a different way.

The sleep out took place in a secure location not far from the centre of Sheffield – but even so, the realities of what we’d signed up for started to hit home in the run up to the event and I was obsessively checking the weather forecast to see if it was going to rain (which it did, a lot).

When we arrived at the sleep out, we were shown to the sleeping area. We chose a corner location under the (unrealistic I hear you say) cover. When we eventually headed to our sleeping bags at around midnight, it was apparent that mine was a little damp in one corner (“suck it up Sarah, it’s one night” I told myself) because of the rain getting under the cover. I think I managed to doze a little at various points throughout the night – but more than ever, you’re aware that it’s never truly quiet in the centre of town: you can hear cars, sirens – and rain. The rain that you can barely hear when you’re all tucked up in bed is painfully loud when you’re lying awake at 3am in an increasingly wet sleeping bag. I chose to lie still, because if I’d have moved, the other side of my sleeping bag would have become wet too… amazing how in those circumstances, one side of your sleeping bag feels luxurious. Again, I’m constantly saying to myself “It’s fine, it’s only until 6am” and really, it was fine, because all the while I was fortunate enough to know in a matter of only a few hours, I’d be back in my home with hot bath, warm bed and tea on tap. I can’t imagine how soul destroying it would have been to do it for a second night, let alone for weeks and months at a time. I honestly will never take that for granted again.

In the build-up to the event, I wanted to gear myself up by reminding myself what it was all about, who the cash raised would help. It’s easy to walk past the homeless people you see in cities and think they’re there because they’ve made some sort of bad choice in life. Just two of examples of people that Roundabout are currently helping are a young lad who’s suffered a series of bereavements ultimately meaning he has no home, and a girl who’s long-term partner became violent towards her and her family meaning she fled the family home. From this, genuinely, thank God for Roundabout, because otherwise, what would have happened to these young people?

Caroline and I are so thankful for the sponsorship we received – our total is £745 (and counting!). If you’d like to sponsor us, you can do so at www.justgiving.com/mksleepout