As I write this piece drawn from the Press Release I circulated from our night sleeping rough on the streets of Birmingham I do not want to appear condescending or patronising but to reflect my profound respect for those living on the streets and those helping to reach out with assistance and kindness.
Members of Cannock Chase Green Party spent the night sleeping rough on the streets of Birmingham this Saturday night/Sunday morning with Birmingham and Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach to raise funds and awareness of the urgent needs of this charity for the homeless.
In an organised event attended by over twenty volunteers organised by the Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach charity in conjunction with their sister organisation in Birmingham to undertake their regular outreach activities was to sleep rough through the night. The charity is looking to raise money for a winter essentials pack of sleeping bag, thermal gloves, socks and hat, a foil blanket and warm clothing. The aim was to raise £600 and have now raised over £2000 with more donations coming in every day and there is still time to donate.
We met many people over the course of one night amongst the homeless with many ordinary stories of life taking a different turn and there for the grace of God go I and the fantastic volunteers giving up there nights three or fours times per week, every week. Even though this was just for one night in mild, dry conditions this was a sobering experience. We hear so much negative about the homeless if we hear anything at all and the reality is that they are just people as good and flawed as everyone of us and wholly a symptom of the problems in our society.
We met many individuals, couples and families each grateful for the smallest kindness and it is humbling and joke of corporate hubris when we are sleeping rough in an area being developed as Paradise Birmingham where volunteers working through the charitable donations are bridging a gap created our lack of social cohesion. We don’t do enough.
The volunteers we shared the night with were absolutely fantastic and their outreach rounds in both Birmingham and Wolverhampton are a lifeline to so many people working tirelessly every week. An outreach round is a walk around the streets of the city to meet and talk to those sleeping rough offering to ensure those who need the most receive a warm drink, a food parcel and the basic toiletries.
A special thanks to them all Becky, Ranjit, Paul, Rick, Dina, Emma, Jade, Leah Elise, Mike, Dex, Kez, Kes and many, many others so very much respect for your energy, efforts and the positive impact you have on the lives of the people you support. As part of full lives, jobs and families you achieve so much with so little.
Also an immense thanks to Marianne and James from Walk the Breadline as well as James Pitt and Zander Greatmore from The Olive Tree and Staffordshire Catering who came down to provide the homeless (and us!) with hot baked potatoes and chilli con carne.
Rebecca Lynch, Organiser of Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach stated
“It’s great to have people involved. We are just trying to do what we can, we wouldn’t be able to without the kindness of others. The evening was a great success we are so grateful to everyone who has donated with such generosity over the past couple of months. If you haven’t yet donated but would still like to support us, please do so as any more money we receive will be a bonus and help us to reach even more people and sustain the work we do in getting essential supplies out directly to those who need them.”
Birmingham and Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach (BHO and WHO) are grassroots, volunteer-run groups who get essential supplies such as food, hot drinks , sleeping bags and clothing out to homeless people in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. We are funded by our volunteers and also receive donations from the people of the West Midlands.
Our group was also joined by Elliot Lord of Our Own Future who demonstrated to the group how to construct his cardboard bed to use for the evening and were left for the homeless to collect and use.
The official numbers (1) for 2014 list 20 rough sleepers in Birmingham and 7 in Wolverhampton as recorded by the local authorities. The experience of the weekend shows these numbers to be considerably light and growing. Cannock Chase numbers are estimated at five although this is likely to be greater based on the evidence of our time spent in Birmingham. Whilst the hidden homeless is estimated at 400,000 (2)
Wolverhampton Homeless Outreach on Twitter @wolveshomeless
Elliot Lord article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-34910855
Photo Story Board from the night