- Durham Cathedral Charity Sleepout - A Fundraisers Story
Durham Sleepout - A Fundraisers Story
By David Atkinson - 27 September 2017
‘Why I gave up my bed and slept out for charity’ - A Fundraisers Story
Every year hardy fundraisers across the UK give up their bed for a night to sleep out for Depaul UK and support young homeless people in need.
On a cold, dark night in December 2016, Depaul UK supporter David Atkinson was one of 170 people who arrived at Durham Cathedral to sleep out specifically to fundraise for Nightstop UK, the charity’s emergency accommodation service which provides young people experiencing homelessness with a bed for the night in the spare rooms of trained and vetted community volunteers.
In his own words David tells his story of a night out with a difference:
"Depaul UK’s Nightstop UK was chosen as the charity for my team at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Nightstop was chosen largely due to the influence of a new colleague Sharon, who is herself a Nightstop host and has provided overnight accommodation for young people.
As soon as I heard about the sleepout at Durham Cathedral, I knew that I should be taking part in this. It was not without a degree of trepidation that I signed up, but nevertheless, I did it and accepted I was fully committed to it."
"The day was not long in coming round. After the inevitable anxious time of gathering up the vital equipment for the event, which I did, in fact, already possess, and despite fears that something would prevent me from actually taking part, I was fully ready on the day. I need hardly state that an event like this needs considerable time in prayer devoted to it.
Sadly our focus was sharpened with the unwelcome news that three rough sleepers had died in the fortnight before it was due to take place: two in a fire in a derelict building in Manchester, and the third believed to have frozen to death in a car park in Birmingham. On average, 38 people a night sleep rough in the North East, and that is by no means the worst region statistically in the country: the worst is London.
Our numbers for our little group gradually snowballed to six: Sharon herself, her husband Mark, her daughter Stevie, (neither of whom works for HMRC), Andy and I from Newcastle, and our Director of Finance, Teresa from London. Sharon set up our web page for contributing that way."
Not Your Normal Night Out
"When I arrived at Durham Cathedral on the night of the sleepout and registered, I had a full understanding of the small picture, but not really the big picture.
If everybody showed up on the night, there should have been 190 of us. Nightstop was hoping to raise £15,000 from the sleepout from all who took part, and at the last count they had raised £13,000 – and that was on the night. It will have increased. The costs associated with one night’s accommodation with Nightstop is just £15 to provide, so we are talking about 1,000 nights’ accommodation.
Despite people telling me it would be freezing in the Cathedral, it was actually quite warm inside and the heating was on. You may think us gluttons for punishment, but the six of us were keen to sleep outside in the cloisters, and get closer to the true picture of sleeping rough.
There was something of a programme of events provided. Our group opting to hear more about the work of the charity. Many of the young people who help with have been forced to leave the parental home at short notice for one reason or another. A couple of hosts, including Sharon, spoke to the group and it was good to be able to ask questions of the Depaul staff."
Bedding Down For The Night
"After this, it was time to be preparing for bed. How like the real experience of sleeping rough: while I was at the service, my colleagues were told they were blocking a doorway, and our group would have to move around.
I was in fact quite warm once I got into my sleeping bag. I got the occasional blast of cold air in my face during the night. The cloister floor felt very hard, and unfortunately, no means was provided for inflating my air bed. But I am sure real rough sleepers have it a lot worse than I did.
The cathedral clock chimed every quarter of an hour, which was not exactly a sleeping aid, so I took the opportunity to do some serious praying."
There’s No Place Like Home
"About six o’clock in the morning, things started moving again.
We rose from our sleeping bags with varying degrees of difficulty, making our way to the toilets and the tea point on the way back. Somewhat unceremoniously, they needed everybody out of the cathedral by seven o’clock. Another parallel with what it must be like for real rough sleepers! The Saturday morning was a cold and frosty one, but it was a great feeling to have got through the night supporting so worthy a cause.
The inevitable question has to be: Would I do it again?
If the opportunity were to come up again, yes I would, but I feel I do need a while to fully get over this time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who contributed: our group of six made slightly over £2,000 on the website. A final thought is that I am delighted to have had the opportunity to take part in so worthwhile a cause: these opportunities don’t often arise!"
Would You Sleep Out?
The 2016 Sleepout at Durham Cathedral raised more than £21,000 for Nightstop UK. On Friday, 13th October 2017 you can be part of something special and join over 95 dedicated fundraisers who will be rolling out their sleeping bags to help young people who face the terrifying prospect of homelessness.
If you’d like to find out more about the Durham Cathedral Sleepout or Depaul sleepouts across the UK then click here.
If sleeping out isn't for you but you'd like to find out about other ways you can help young people experiencing homelessness click here.