Here Solihull SleepOut 2016 participant and Chelmsley Wood nurse Sue Nightingale (pictured left) shares her thoughts on her first experience of a St Basils SleepOut:
"I run a Youth group in Sheldon and have been working with young people to highlight the growing problems our young people face every day, we have discussed ways of helping, run our own Soup Kitchen, collected donations for homeless people and tried to raise awareness with our young people and their families. I presently work as a practice nurse in Chelmsley Wood, a very impoverished part of the city with many challenges that people face every day, people with Diabetes not being able to afford to buy the right food, lack of employment, poor living conditions and family disputes.
I have been familiar with the fantastic work that St Basils do, I have also been keen to help having collected donations of toiletries for the young people. I have wanted to do the Sleepout for some time but thought I was too old and would feel out of place, however I am always up for a challenge, so I decided as the sleepout was coming to Solihull that I should take the plunge. Could I get a group together? Well yes, 7 of my friends and I decided to support the young people and St Basils in the wonderful work they do. My friends were a little apprehensive; 'What had I asked them to do?', 'How would they cope?', 'How cold would it be?', but they were willing to give it a go, to experience just a tiny amount of what some homeless young people deal with everyday. I was not entirely aware of huge contribution and help St Basils offer or of how little known they were in our city. I was shocked as were most people the number of young homeless people in Birmingham and Solihull ‘the hidden in full view’ yet we choose to ignore this growing problem.
On the night were heard testimonies from 2 lovely young ladies Danielle and Holly, they were very nervous but gave heart breaking stories detailing how far they had come with the help of St Basils. They were so grateful for all the support they had received and in turn were helping others, including sleeping out with the rest of us!
So at 50 years of age I collected my sleeping bag and few essentials and met up with our team on the night, I have never been camping, I have done Glastonbury but in a disabled marquee but I have slept on the floor of a hostel in Brazil, so I could manage a carpark. We were all a little nervous but excited as we had been telling all our colleagues and friends. They thought we were mad to even consider it especially as the temperatures were due to fall to freezing.
Yes we could donate money, yes we could stay at home in our cosy beds, but then how could we even begin to appreciate what our young people experience every day? This made us more determined. We were lucky it was a well organised event with toilets, food and security. We built our Dens not to help keep us warm but to build morale, we had more stuff than we needed and as I lay in the cold trying to keep the biting wind away from my face, I realised that this is a nightly struggle for many. How do they feel? How can you sleep at all feeling so vulnerable? What if people were abusive or kicked you, how would you cope? A different place to sleep every night, broken restless sleep on an unforgiving surface waiting for the sunrise, some warmth and the night to end.
In the morning we were a little sombre, we had made it through the night, well a few hours really, we felt as though we had not done enough. We could now go home, warm up, crawl into a welcome soft bed and catch up on our lost sleep. All the team said they would do it again and are spreading the word to bring a bigger team next time.
St Basils does amazing work, their volunteers and staff were so grateful to us for taking part, actually they deserve the thanks for all they do, all the young people they encourage, support and believe in. What we can do for them is to raise awareness, sign up for next year’s sleepout, encourage others to do the same and keep talking about St Basils on social media, facebook, twitter and face to face.
Thank you to Danielle and Holly and to St Basils for making me a better person for taking part."