Be the change you wish to see in the world

I want to start this blog with the biggest most heartfelt thanks to every single person who took the time to donate these past few weeks for the #bigbathsleepout for @JulianHouseUK that I took part in with my close friend @SwannAmanda

As I write this my page stands at £1530, which actually means £3,060 as @AsterGroupUK are match funding EVERY single penny I raise. Add to this Amanda’s total of £1215 – then our one night on the streets has raised a massive total of £4,275.

We are bowled over by everyone’s generosity and it certainly helped us get through what was a tough night physically, but also mentally and emotionally for myself.

Our night started with smiles, friendship, lots of layers and a solid foundation of cardboard to see us through.

What we both liked about this sleep out organised by @JulianHouseUK was that it was as close to experiencing a proper night on the streets as it could get. We were in an open public park and the only things we could take were cardboard, plastic sheeting and sleeping bags. It really was real life; but for us this was only ONE night, of what is every night for some peoples real life.

Amanda and I make a good team, I’m pretty impractical and impulsive, and she is  organised and always has a plan B. Just the partnership that would be needed if this was our reality. What this one night out really proved to me is that you couldn’t survive out there on your own; you need someone to understand exactly how it feels, someone to pick you up when your mind and/or body take over, and mainly someone who you know will have your back. I felt this loneliness in one night.

Homelessness has always got my heart, I’ve witnessed it first hand, BUT more importantly I’ve lived through the differences that the temporary housing sector makes. This part of the #ukhousing sector saved lives in my family and I will always be eternally grateful.

We chose to pitch our spot for the night next to a hedge, as we thought we would use it as a natural wind break (girl scout alert!), the rain had fallen all day, yet it had been kind for us when setting up to stay dry although the ground was unbelievably saturated. Therefore from the get go either your bed was getting wet in order to save your belongings from the wet ground, or your belongings were at the mercy of the elements – you choose.

The extra layers went on for what was ‘bedtime’ for context this is what I had:

Tights, leggings, running leggings, vest, short sleeved and long sleeved base layers, running top, hoody, panda fleece onesie, feather puffa coat, woolly hat, gloves, 3 pairs of socks & slipper socks.

I then got in to a sleeping bag and wrapped another one round me and went ‘to bed’

This was about 12.30, we had taken some rum in our coffee to keep us warm and had late night soup also. At this point we felt good, in high spirits and super energised for all the money we had raised – surely ONE night cant be that bad!

What became apparent very quickly was that you would never really sleep, not sleep like you or i know it, and you would never be truly comfy – even with all those layers on.

At 1.25am I woke up from my first nap, the only sensation my feet knew was cold, it was pointless trying to do anything about it, I had to try and forget about them. The wind started to pick up along with some showers of rain, the wind brought an additional chill just to nip you into consciousness, but it also carried a haunting undercurrent with it. So early on I was so pleased I wasn’t on my own.

My senses were heightened, and I felt anxious. If I was settling down to the streets for real my fear would be palpable; how can your brain manage that day in day out?

Every 30-40 minutes as i stirred, I wondered if and when your body and mind ever get used to never knowing true comfort? the damp ground was eating away at me, seeping in to every bone and tissue that I had, even through all my carefully thought out layers.

I had thoughts of a hot shower in as little as 8 hours. Imagine not having that, knowing that tomorrow night would be the same, and that the day holds the same damp cold clothes you slept in?

The way in which the temperature just plummets is scary, we weren’t prepared for how quickly that would take hold of you. At 3am we both sat bolt upright and were engulfed by the sudden icy chill in the air. That change in weather on the street kills.

Your body and mind have to give in to ‘sleep’ at some point, but life out there on the streets has a different idea when that time comes. That’s when the world wakes up. The birds start their chorus as early as 3.30am, the roads become busier and louder and the world has arrived to start a new day, but hang on I’ve not slept off the previous one yet.

This image was seen through teary eyes, my own personal thoughts came flooding back, and honestly, I daren’t allow myself to go back and revisit that part of my life, it was too painful.

Layered over my personal thoughts were the 100’s of people that THIS, THIS is their morning view, not just for one like us, but relentlessly morning after morning. It was so cold, so damp and so sad.

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As we got up we grabbed a hot drink and used the public toilets – this is in its most basic form, but we wondered how many don’t have immediate access to that?

We could deal with not brushing our teeth, washing our face, or brushing our hair straight away – we know home was an hour or so away. Imagine that not being the norm? imagine what that does for your personal wellbeing, but also your self confidence and worth?

As we folded up our sheeting and cardboard along with our sleeping bags everything was either sodden or cold with damp. Luckily for us we didn’t need to rely on these provisions for later that night, if we did undoubtedly we would be welcomed in to bed later with wet sleeping bags and a damp bed; just what you relish when settling down to the cold hard ground.

I wont lie this one night hit me hard, physically I woke up aching, tired, unkept and in need of a wash. Mentally it woke things in me that I thought I had dealt with, emotions that I thought were spent and pain that I thought id buried.

Everyone has a story, don’t assume that when you walk past everyone on the streets that they have chosen or deserve to be there. It can really be the difference of the wrong decision at the wrong time and your whole life can change.

Maybe you, me, us can be the people that can help those make the right decision at the right time.

The most powerful thing in this world is kindness, and it costs nothing. I think we all get so consumed with our own agendas that we often forget others, or even forget the impact that we do have on others. You have the ability to make a difference to someone’s life, don’t waste it.

If you are waiting for someone else to do something about it, you are that someone to do something.

At @JulianHouseUK it costs £55 to give one person one night in their shelter, so as it stands we have helped 77 people. That’s 77 people that get the chance to let their bodies and minds rest for a night, they get the chance to feel comfort and warmth without fear.

If you would still like to support our efforts, then its never too late:

http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Amy-Nettleton?

Thank you and I wish you a restful night every night xx