THE great and the good of Portsmouth will be experiencing life as a rough sleeper next month, to raise awareness of what it’s like to be homeless.
On Thursday, April 4, Fratton Park will play host to the CEO Sleepout, where business owners and other high-ups will be sleeping out under the stars, raising both money and awareness for rough sleepers in Portsmouth.
Last year’s event saw £47,000 raised for The Society of St James, Salvation Army, Southern Domestic Abuse Service, Portsmouth Foodbank and more.
This year, a number of newcomers are taking part in the event, with hopes that even more will be raised this time around.
Jonathan Jones from Bishops Printers believes that the CEO Sleepout will have a hugely positive impact on the city itself.
He said: ‘Doing something like this creates good awareness for what rough sleepers have to go through.
‘Wherever you go now you can see a homeless community that needs help and it is awful to see them suffering out in the cold, sleeping on the concrete.
‘Even when you don’t see them, they’re hiding away trying to find shelter – these people are cold, wet and fighting for survival while we do nothing about it.
‘I don’t quite know what to expect – I just want to do my bit to help.’
One of those who does know a bit more about what to expect is Daniel Arnold, the CEO of armed forces charity All Call Signs, which supports veterans with mental health issues.
He said: ‘A large number of these veterans with mental health problems end up street homeless at some point, so this is a cause that really hit home for me.
‘I’m in a position where I can give back; I’ve had firsthand dealings with rough sleepers who are down on their luck and we’re seeing that far too often.
‘I’ve not done something like this before but I did spend 10 years in the military - so sleeping at Fratton Park may even feel luxurious by comparison.
‘Some rough sleepers are so stuck for help that they don’t even have a sleeping bag to keep them warm, so I’m thinking about doing it without one to see what that is like.
‘The bottom line is that people have to be educated in exactly what these people are going through – and hopefully the shock of what that really feels like will put them into action.’
Carole Damper from The Roberts Centre in Landport took part last year, and will be sleeping under the lights again next month.
She said: ‘I think the CEO Sleepout is a good way to get people thinking about the bigger picture of homelessness.
‘It’s not just about what rough sleeping is like in the winter – these people are out on the streets all year round.
‘I think it’s great that the CEO Sleepout lets people put their money where their mouth is; we try to help homeless people as much as we can, but then we go back to our homes and our comfy beds.
‘From last year, I realised how long the night can be, and how cold it is – it also makes you aware of how scary it can be knowing that you are vulnerable to the outside world.
‘I realised last year just how insulating cardboard can be too, so I shall be bringing a lot of that with me. I’m just looking forward to trying to make a difference.’