Tuesday 6 December 2016

Turning up the heat on homelessness


On the cold winter night of Saturday 3rd December, over twenty Emmaus companions, supporters, fundraisers, friends, staff and trustees joined together at St Paul’s Church Cheltenham to sleep out in the open. We want to change attitudes to homelessness and encourage everyone to reach out to rough sleepers with warm clothing, sleeping bags and compassion. This was an opportunity for our supporters to hear and experience first-hand what it’s like to sleep rough. Sleeping out in sub-zero temperatures is not really something anyone would choose to do, but the Emmaus Gloucestershire team was determined to speak out for those at risk of dying on the streets at this time of year. Few of us slept well on that cold hard concrete. Some of those who had slept rough before s rough sleepers found themselves unable to fully relax from fear of violence in nearby streets. It’s a powerful message when those who have experienced homelessness are prepared to do the very thing they never ever wanted to do again....

Helen Wolfson, Chair of Trustees at Emmaus Gloucestershire, was struck by ‘the importance of having warm clothes – keeping warm made a huge difference for me between getting a good night’s sleep and not. We were literally peeling bedding off the ground on the Sunday morning. Only last week we helped a man who turned up at our soup run in just a T-shirt and a jacket. This is why we’re still calling on everyone to drop off warm clothes, new underwear and sleeping bags at our shops so that we can help rough sleepers in Gloucester keep as warm as possible.’

The trauma and nightmare of sleeping rough for 16 years was brought to mind for Francis, one of our Companions. Over the weekend, he shared the depths of his mental and physical strain on film and with listeners of BBC Radio Gloucestershire. You can listen again to his extraordinary and moving story:

Click here to listen to Francis speaking to Steve Kitchen at 02:14:37-02:23:54.

Click here to listen to Francis with Richard Atkins on the Sunday Morning show at 02:08:50-02:15:38.

Francis has gained a huge amount of fulfilment from being able to inform others about what it’s like to be living on the streets: ‘I was out there for so long, I didn’t know what normal life was like. But I’ve been given a second chance now at Emmaus.’

Francis and Helen are calling on everyone to make a difference by...
• ... donating warm clothing and sleeping bags at our shops – please email admin@emmausglos.org.uk if you need help with this.
• ... buying some food and drink for anyone they see sleeping rough.
• ... spreading the word and reporting anyone living on the streets to Street Link.
• ... and finally, if you do see someone who is homeless you could stop for a chat, or even just say hello. Small things like this make such a difference.

Addie Stevenson, CEO of Emmaus Gloucestershire, expressed her thanks to everyone for their support: ‘It was great to see Companions, supporters and staff pulling together as a team to make this happen. We really appreciate the sacrifices that everyone has made to raise awareness of this problem in the county. We’re looking forward to growing the event in the future.’

Click here for a detailed report on what it's really like to sleep rough in Cheltenham.