I recently ‘slept rough’ for a night, as part of SASH‘s annual Sleepout event. It was a week after the horrendous snowstorm we experienced, a day after another light dusting, and the forecast was looking wet all night.
Being a lover of the outdoors and wild camping, I was pretty excited about the challenge and the spirit in which I was undertaking it, and decided to walk instead of drive to the venue (6 mile round trip), sleep in a bivvy bag with no shelter, and find out as much as I could about SASH and the people behind it.
Despite being a bit nervous going to this event knowing nobody, I was met by a lovely group of staff and volunteers on arrival, who were busy meeting and greeting the 30-or-so of us that turned up. There was a soup and hot drink station, information about the organisation, a group of young people singing acapella, and some kids running round helping shelter builders and judging the ‘Best Shelter’ competition.
I had a great conversation with the caretaker of Tang Hall Community Centre (our home for the night) about the decline of industry in York and the lack of opportunities for unskilled workers and the problems this is causing for young people. He reminisced about companies such as Terrys, Ben Johnson, Carriageworks, Rowntrees who would employ hundreds of local workers and provide ‘jobs for life’. I also heard from a SASH volunteer host who has provided a bed for over 140 young people over the last 6 years!
Despite not much sleep being had by anybody, a couple of shelter collapses due to the relentless rain, and a 5am wake up, everybody seemed in good spirits the next morning. I was delighted to find out recently that the Sleepout raised over £6,000 for SASH, which is enough to provide 320 nights of emergency accommodation for young people in crisis across York.
Despite us living in a beautiful, affluent City, it is clear that the existence of charities such as SASH prove that there are people in crisis in York. Innocent young people who through no fault of their own find themselves on the streets, with nowhere to stay. Without SASH and it’s team of volunteer hosts, these young people are exposed and vulnerable, and may experience life-defining experiences. With SASH, many young people are able to return to their family home, or find safe, supportive accommodation elsewhere. In this environment young people will flourish and continue to enhance our City.
You can donate to SASH via my Sleepout page here – https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JoeGardham