It was 7pm, Friday 13th, and the journey to undertake the GIANT HOWARTH SLEEPOUT 2 (GHS2), had started. It was a clear night and the stars gave a clear hint as to the cold temperatures to come….
GHS is an event organised in conjunction with the Huddersfield Giants Community Trust (HGCT) and The Howarth Foundation. Brave volunteers spend the night outdoors at the John Smith’s Stadium to raise funds for both causes.
The experience provides a powerful insight into what it is like to spend a night outdoors and how homeless people have to cope on a daily basis.
HGCT is the official charity of The Huddersfield Giants, with a mission to support underserved children. The Howarth Foundation works with local organisations to support individuals who are, or have been, homeless back into employment.
The Ministry of Colours team and I headed down to The Zone in Huddersfield, to meet the participants of the event and discuss the schedule for the night. We were greeted at The Zone, home of HGCT, by the lady herself, Lisa Darwin, the CEO, who welcomed us warmly in preparation for the cold night ahead.
Once the flock had gathered, we headed to The John Smith’s Stadium, to collect our mattresses for the night - cardboard boxes!
Climbing the stairs of the stand, looking for a place on the concrete to rest our heads, it seemed that outside, and in those conditions, there were very few places to get a comfortable night’s sleep.
Laying the cardboard, unravelling our sleeping bags and really feeling the cold air, it began to sink in. Some sort of understanding of the distress that the homeless must be in, trying to find some form of shelter, and sometimes with very little to keep themselves warm.
Once set up, we went to get a hot drink, appreciating how grateful we were to receive what must be a luxury for those on the streets.
It was then time to hear from the Howarth Foundation, the touching story of a former homeless person who now works alongside the Howarth Foundation to help others escape the streets. He told us, how quickly life can change, how suddenly he became homeless and how he wanted to raise awareness to try to stop this happening to others. This touched my heart and made me so grateful for the home I live in.
After the Huddersfield Giants Cheerleaders lead us through the Macarena and Cotton Eye Joe to get us moving in the cold, it was finally, time to head to our cardboard beds. Walking past shelters people had built for themselves to shield the wind was a reminder that when homeless people are outdoors, completely covered with whatever materials they can find, this is necessary to survive the night.
We laid down, not knowing if, or when, we would sleep, despite having the reassurance of knowing that this was an organised event. Unfortunately, most homeless people, don't have the comfort of knowing that they and their belongings are safe for the night as many are sadly subject to attacks and theft.
With the wind blowing, the noise of nearby Huddersfield town and the rustling from others, I began to understand the stress that the homeless must be under to get even a minute’s rest. I can't imagine the mental and physical pain that they go through.
After what seemed like years, I could hear the campers stirring, the clock had hit 5:45am and it was looking like time to pack up. The relief that rushed through me, knowing that I no longer had to lay there in the cold, was second to none. I can only guess as to how the homeless must feel, when they get a steer in the right direction from the Howarth Foundation.
Upon reflection, it’s safe to say that what The Howarth Foundation does is amazing. The appreciation from victims of homelessness, when they get the help that they deserve from the charity, makes this a very worthy cause.
Although it was challenge for the Ministry of Colours team, we will certainly be doing the event again and raising money and awareness for the unfortunate people within our community suffering from poverty and homelessness.
Our donation link is still open....
Thank you all for the donations - it is appreciated by all.