Friday 1st December saw some of the admin team from Helping Hands Portsmouth slept out on the streets of Portsmouth to raise awareness of homelessness.
The aim of the night sleeping out on the streets was to not only raise awareness but to teach us a little about what the guys and girls living on our streets experience every night when they are sleeping rough.
The evening began at 19:15, with the team making their way to Debenhams doorway to set up their beds for the night. Sleeping bags rolled out and belongings stored, the night ahead of us began.
The atmosphere at the time of beginning the sleep out was nice and relaxing, lots of chatting and people walking past in a happy mood as they were going on nights out or going home from the pub. Being a Friday, this is a popular night for going out and having a drink.
The guys and girls living on our streets often bed down early as they have to be up early for them to ensure the doorways are clear for shops to resume business the next day. It got to around 20:45 and one of the homeless guys who we see and engage with often came round to check on the team that they were safe and as comfortable as can be in that situation. He also said, “you always look after me; now it is my turn to look after you guys.” The team were speechless.
The time ticked on to 22:30 with the team catching up with each other on how their week had been and what they had planned for the weekend ahead as well as who was doing the cooking for Sunday’s outreach run. We found that at around 22:45 the pleasant buzz of the evening had gone and we were left with the dead of night and that this was going to be it until the morning. It was indeed eerie and strange. Something, I personally, have never experienced.
Passers-by were very kind and offered us food and the police on duty that night also dropped by to wish us well and ensure we were well, along with the street pastors.
We didn’t get a sound night’s sleep, that is for sure. We did wake up a few times due to people asking for various things from a rizla to a sleeping bag. That night alone we gave out 3 sleeping bags to those who needed them. It was a cold night with the temperature dropping to 1°C and a RealFeel® temperature of -5°C.
It came to 06:00 and the time came to clear up and move along for the day. For us, that meant to go back to our homes. For the guys, well, it meant another day in the cold on the streets. We ensured that we left no rubbish and that everything we had taken out with us we returned home with. After all, the streets are peoples homes. We wouldn’t like it if someone came and slept in our home and left rubbish after they had left.
There seemed to be quite a few people around that were keeping watch, and keep watch most nights. However, the streets aren’t always as safe and pleasant as we may think.
Whilst we were out on the streets we did record a video diary. Why? To give you an idea of what it was like whilst actually being there. To give you an idea of what our homeless friends go through every night of the year for the time they are on the streets. The video is below. Take a look.
If you do nothing else today, don’t be the person that tut’s or points a finger of judgement. Instead, be the person that offers a helping hand. A hot drink, a snack?