Sleep in the Park – Reflections from Darrin
It’s a Saturday evening in Edinburgh and the temperature over the next 12 hours is predicted to be as low as -7C. However, that’s okay as someone in the house turns up the thermostat, burns some more gas and settles down to watch ‘Strictly’.
The above scenario could so easily have happened in my house on 9 December this year. However, on joining Social Investment Scotland in September, I signed up to Sleep in the Park with seven colleagues to help raise funds to end homelessness in Scotland. So, as I shut the front door on that evening and made my way to Princes Street Gardens, I wondered what the night would bring.
The SIS team met early for a pre-Sleep in the Park dinner – quite a sight for others who were also enjoying their Christmas festivities – think glad rags meets thermal troos and thick socks. Thanks to the restaurant who let us pile up all our gear including one of our team who I think had brought along the contents of her house, “just in case”. And to a lovely young guy who realised what we were doing while having his meal and came and gave us a fiver on the spot to support us.
This is my first reflection: how many homelessness people have a hot meal before sleeping out in the elements?
We arrive at the event, bag check, and find a place to call home for the night. We select a space which has been covered in tarpaulin, (second reflection: not the doorway of a shop), and go and watch the show that is underway, (third reflection: free comedy and music is certainly not par for the course).
Credit to Josh Littlejohn and all the Social Bite team for pulling this event together. The work they have achieved so far is very impressive, and encouraging 8000+ people to give up their Saturday night, so close to Christmas, to raise funds and be part of this movement is incredible.
After our bedtime story from John Cleese we settled down in our sleeping bags. We shared Mars bars, warm drinks, hand warmers and friendship (fourth reflection: companionship is important).
I closed my eyes and fell in and out of a disturbed sleep. I was interrupted by ScotRail, Lothian Buses, taxis, party revellers and fellow sleepers who clearly were not going to try to sleep. It was so cold, a few of us ended up walking around, trying to get our blood flowing again and contemplating what it must be like for someone who doesn’t have a warm bed to look forward to.
At 5.30am we were encouraged to pack up and leave – the temperature was -6C. Frost had formed on all exposed surfaces and nobody was really sleeping anyway. My experience was nearly over, and I was jolted back into my middle-class bubble when a colleague drove me home in a warm car with heated seats.
I can honestly say the event has had a mercurial change on my view of homeless individuals and I say individuals because everyone is a real person with a story.
Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to all friends, colleagues, family and supporters who helped us raise over £3000. You can still donate to us now at our fundraising page.