With no roof over their heads and no mattress to sleep on, the great and good of Portsmouth spent a night sleeping outdoors in Fratton Park for the annual CEO Sleepout – an event that raises money for homelessness charities in the city.
The event gave people the chance to reflect on the harsh reality of life as a rough sleeper, and learn about some of the issues they face on a nightly basis.
Wind buffeted Fratton Park all night long, with heavy rain soaking the terraces.
Professor Graham Galbraith, vice-chancellor at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘It was really difficult to get to sleep, and then to stay asleep.
‘It’s awkward when you’re battling the weather, with the wind and rain, and needing to go to the loo – I went twice last night and thought to myself that it now makes sense why rough sleepers might sleep next to a public toilet.
‘It wasn’t a pleasant night but it was for a really good cause – for people like me this isn’t a reality that I have to live in each day, so it makes me feel very privileged and determined to do my bit to help.’
Jo Wardman-Smith, 49 from Lymington, is the director of Kigass Ltd.
She says that last night was much harder than she thought it would be.
‘It’s cold, uncomfortable and quite dispiriting,’ she said.
‘I wouldn’t want to do it again tonight, but that is the sad reality for many people – it’s crazy how knackered you are afterwards.
‘People always say that rough sleepers should go out and get a job, but after a night like this I can see why they wouldn’t have the energy to do anything.
‘I’m glad I was able to experience just how bad things can be for rough sleepers though.’
Waking up bleary-eyed and soggy from the rain, the group tucked into bacon rolls courtesy of Portsmouth’s volunteer-run Rapid Relief Team.
Bianca Robinson from CEO Sleepout says that the event was a huge success.
She said: ‘Last night we saw a really amazing bunch of people giving up their time to support Portsmouth's rough sleepers.
‘They slept through wind, rain and a very cold night but have gained a real understanding of what rough sleepers go through every night.
‘It doesn’t come close to how Portsmouth’s rough sleepers live their lives - but it’s helped them to see just how important the fundraising is.’