Nomad Online

Lessons from a winter sleep out

Sometimes you know things to be true in your head. But it’s different when you experience it. Even just a tiny taste of it.

I participated in a fundraising event last night. A group of us slept out in a park next to a shelter for people experiencing homelessness to raise funds and awareness for that project.

Participants arrived at 7:30pm. We were served dinner at 8pm by a chef who volunteered his time to cook for us. Then there was a time of prayer and worship. People who were also being supported by that project shared their experience of living on the streets and how they came to the shelter and it’s associated projects.

I talked to a man who moved to the UK when he was ten. He was in his sixties now and worked in banking since he was 17 years old. He didn’t go into the details of how he came to be living at a shelter, but he did say one thing led to another and he was sleeping rough near Victoria station for three weeks before he found this place.

Another young man was a professional athlete who broke his leg. He was just starting out and didn’t have a lot of savings. When that ran out while he was recovering, he ended up on the streets. It was only by word of mouth that he found his way to this day centre.

After a time of sharing, we collected our cardboard mattress – packing boxes that were cut open – and headed to the park next door.

At 12am it started to drizzle. Softly. As it often does in London.

At 4am the tarp that was over us ripped and fell down. Most of us were sleeping intermittently anyway. It wasn’t a huge interruption.

But it was a long time to 6:30am when the centre reopened to feed us breakfast and to send us back on our way home.

The following is what I learned from the winter sleep out.

  1. Homelessness is NOT a lifestyle choice. I heard that 15% of rough sleepers end their own lives. That life expectancy for the people experiencing homelessness is only 47 years old.
  2. Sleeping rough is scary and uncomfortable. I cannot imagine doing this long term.
  3. Every person sleeping rough has a story to tell. They are human. Made in the image of God. And I’m too quick to make assumptions.
  4. The love of Jesus does make a difference. It can bring hope and can change people. I heard that from former rough sleepers last night.
Search for a Topic
Posted Recently
March 2023
Follow Nomad online

Join 2,697 other followers
%d bloggers like this: