On November 3rd 2017 we held our 24th annual Sleep Out at Festival Square Edinburgh.
The Sleep Out is the largest event in the Rock Trust year, providing a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of the experiences that too many young people are facing when they find themselves forced to ‘sleep rough’. The event is also a vital fundraiser for the Rock Trust, with the sponsorship raised by participants going towards our frontline work with young people who are affected by or at risk of homelessness.
Sleep Out 2017 was our biggest and most ambitious event yet.150 individuals from across Edinburgh and beyond, came together for one night to highlight the issue of youth homelessness, and raise funds to combat it. Many of the participants were representing both new and long-standing corporate partners, including Tesco Bank, Artemis Investment Management, MediaCom, DJ Alexander, YBS, Eversheds, Happy Lets, Leonardo Hotels, Shepherd and Wedderburn, and Almond Housing Association.
The night kicked off with comedy courtesy of Monkey Barrel Comedy Club, and was followed by a live performance by Edinburgh local Gus Harrower and band, a hot dinner provided by La Favorita and Loving Food Truck, and a silent disco. At the end of the evening, local novelist Sara Sheridan read participants a ‘bed-time story’, as participants prepared for the real reason they were there.
We have been running a Sleep Out for many years, and we have always expressed that this event is by no means a true representation of the hardship and suffering that homeless young people go through. However, when the entertainment ends and the participants lie down for the night with nothing above them and only cardboard between their sleeping bags and the concrete, they do experience a small glimpse of what too many people experience on our streets.
This year the temperature remained mild for November (although those trying to sleep might disagree), but at 3am the rain arrived. What had been forecast as a brief drizzle was in fact consistent and unrelenting. The sight of 150 people committing themselves to trying to sleep in those conditions, when they all had homes and beds to go to, was truly overwhelming for the staff and volunteers watching over them. Every single person present understood that what they were experiencing was marginal, just a speck of what others have to endure, and they wanted to be there until the end.
They woke up at 6am (if they had managed to sleep), cold and wet but surprisingly upbeat. We rewarded them with hot rolls (cooked, delivered and served by staff from the Principal Edinburgh Hotel Charlotte Square) and congratulated everyone on making it through the night.
People trickled away to their homes as the sun came up, leaving a trail of sodden cardboard and some mislaid bits of sleeping bag (all cleaned up by our wonderful volunteers!). They had homes to go to, homes with central heating, hot showers and beds, homes they were perhaps more grateful for than ever before.
Since the event we have been sent many thoughtful comments from participants as they come to terms with what the event meant to them and why it was important. Donations have continued to come in, and we are now close to having raised £65,000, a record year for the Sleep Out, and testament to the dedication of the wonderful individuals who took part. Thank you! Some of these comments from participants are below.
“It makes you so aware how vulnerable and exposed homeless young people are. I can’t imagine being between 16-25 years old and being out there on my own. The whole event was incredibly educational, ran smoothly and was a great success. I would definitely take part again and recommend others to experience the hardship these young people go through.”
“If I’m honest, and I know now how naïve I was, I thought the Sleep Out would have been easier than it was. I figured it would be staying up all night with the other sleepers, chatting and laughing until morning but the reality was very different.”
“Despite the rain, I’m pleased to say no one gave up, each and every one of us stayed put – it was just for one night after all. But there is the thing, we were sleeping out to help raise money to help those who sleep out not for just one night but night after night, in the cold and the wet. ”
“At the start of the night I knew one person, but by the following morning we were all standing together hugging not just a very welcome hot mug of tea but also each other, both pleased and proud of our achievement and many of whom who were already committing to next year’s event. It was, without question, an extraordinary and incredible experience, humbling in so many ways and worth every cold, wet and achy minute!”
“I found it a very humbling and eye-opening experience – to think that young people have to go through that and more every night is awful and just reinforces how important the work that you (and others) are doing to end youth homelessness.”