Were you in Chichester on Saturday afternoon? If so, hopefully the music, dancing and pop up cardboard village tempted you to have a look at what was happening on the Cathedral Green, as Stonepillow’s annual BIG Sleep Out got underway. Crowds of over 200 people gathered to be entertained and learn more about the work the charity does to prevent homeless and restore lives; as 40 sleepers built and decorated their cardboard shelters. Sponsored by Barratt Homes and Kiwi Recruitment, the event was made the spectacle and success it was by the support of all the local dance groups, bands, singers and local businesses who performed, entertained, supplied food and drink and volunteered on the day.
The 40 sleepers were incredibly lucky that the storms had passed, but still had to endure temperatures that dropped to 3 degrees overnight; giving them just a flavour of what a rough sleeper might endure on a daily basis. Amongst the participants were Grace and Mike who have used Stonepillow’s services and wanted to give something back to the charity that has helped them. Grace told us ‘I slept out to give something back to the charity that saved my life. I would have died of hypothermia without Ian from Chichester Hostel helping me. I found the night challenging as it brought back difficult memories, but now I had a bed to go back to the next day. My ambition to give back to Stonepillow kept me motivated.’ Mike played guitar and told his story to the sleepers as they prepared to bed down; before running the Great South Run the next day!
The BIG Sleep Out does not aim to replicate homelessness but to take participants out of their comfort zone and offer a small insight into the harsh realities of rough sleeping. Stonepillow works daily at the coalface of the costing of living crisis; with people unable to afford their tenancies, homelessness in our city has increased by 26%. Stonepillow’s day hubs in Chichester and Bognor Regis have seen a 60% increase in client numbers in the last 2 years; whilst experiencing unsustainable increases in running costs. The charity is wholly dependent on the success of events such as this, and on the support of our local community, to be able to keep these hubs open to vulnerable people who are dependent on them for their basic needs; food, showers, laundry, company and support.