On Friday 7 October 2016, local homeless charity Glass Door will host its fourth annual Sleep Out event in Duke of York Square, Chelsea. Hundreds of people are expected to brave a night sleeping on the pavement to raise money for homeless shelters located in churches across West London.
Last year’s Glass Door Sleep Out raised over £160,000 with 260 people taking part. These funds helped Glass Door provide shelter for 70 to 100 people every night last winter, giving a total of 254 individuals the chance to get off the streets for as long as they needed it. Thanks to the success of last year’s event, Glass Door was able to shelter and support more people than ever before.
In the past three years, 643 different individuals have joined the event, with many participating more than one time. Many come by themselves; others join a family, church or work group.
Eighteen churches of different denominations in West London work in partnership to host men and women who are homeless. Many more churches help organize volunteer teams and contribute to the funding of the shelter network. From 7 November 2016, seven new churches will join the network, allowing an additional 15 guests per night to find a safe and dry place to sleep.
Homeless guests with nowhere else to go find a warm welcome in a church hall, complete with dinner, breakfast, and the hospitality that the volunteers provide. By providing shelter, showers, food and support to find work and housing, Glass Door helps individuals break the cycle of homelessness.
Glass Door aims to recruit at least 300 people who will give up their beds for the night of 7 October 2016. There is no registration fee nor fundraising minimum, but the charity asks participants to aim to raise about £500 in sponsorship funds.
Glass Door also hopes the event will help raise awareness of homelessness. Those who take part experience a small taste of some of the difficulties that so many people who are homeless in the Capital have to deal with: the freezing cold, the vulnerability, and the difficulty of carrying on your day with little sleep.
“The ground was hard, the street noise distracting and the bright lights unrelenting. I felt shattered the next day, but I was glad to be able take part,” said three-time Sleep Out veteran Daniel Kaminski, who organised a team last year from Our Lady of Victories church in Kensington. “There was a great sense of camaraderie knowing we were helping to make a difference in the lives of the men and women who otherwise would have nowhere to turn,” Daniel said.
Friends of the charity who are homeless or recently homeless will again help operate the Sleep Out’s coffee and tea stand. “It is touching to know that there are good people who want to help,” said Luke, who helped at last year’s event. He regularly attended the charity’s Kings Road drop-in centre to have lunch and take a shower during the day. “I’m glad to have been able to offer my help, meet people and say ‘thank you’,” Luke said.
Steven Platts, Glass Door’s Chief Operating Officer says the need is there: “We are full to capacity every night and many more people who come to us looking for shelter than we can accommodate. As the only open access shelter now operating in London, we help those who have nowhere else to turn.” Local agencies report 7,581 people slept rough in London throughout 2014/2015, but these figures don’t take into account individuals who are already in shelters or hidden from sight.
“The Sleep Out will allow us to get some of the most vulnerable members of our community off the streets in the dead of winter,” Steven says.
Rev. Brian Leathard, Rector at St Luke’s and Christ Church Chelsea and Glass Door’s chair of trustees, commented: “The beauty of the Sleep Out is in its power to bring people together from different faiths or of none, and from all walks of life, to do something about the scandal of homelessness in our area”.