Charity staff, volunteers and councillors sleep rough in Redhill to raise the profile of local homelessness

Staff at Reigate and Redhill YMCA wrapped up to bed down in the open air recently in a night of sleeping rough in Redhill.

The charity staff were braving the plunging night-time temperatures from 7pm to 7am in Memorial Park in the YMCA Sleepeasy 2014 event.

More than 20 people took part, including local councillors and YMCA volunteers, to raise the profile of homelessness in the local area.

The Bishop of Croydon visited at the start of the evening and praised those taking part, saying: “It is so important to try to do something to make people think differently.

“Homelessness can happen to ordinary people and it is something which can demolish a life.”

The YMCA’s SleepEasy group of Challengers took to temporary cardboard “homes” as the overnight temperature hit zero degrees at 1.30am.

Adam Brooks, the YMCA’s housing manager for Hillbrook House, Redhill, said: “It was particularly hard by that time of the morning.

“No one had had much sleep by then and we were all tired. It was feeling like a long night.”

He said: “The issue is ‘hidden homelessness' - people who are sleeping on couches, on the floors of friends’ houses or in unsuitable B&Bs.

“We are raising money to support our John Warrender Fund, which helps those who find themselves in this situation, enabling them to sustain employment and start rebuilding their lives.”

Each year, the Reigate and Redhill YMCA provides safe and affordable accommodation in Redhill to more than 40 people aged 16 to 30, who find themselves homeless or unsuitably housed, and supports them into independent living.

The cause's Next Step project has recently made its 600th local placement.

Local councillors Mark and Lisa Brunt, Julian Ellacott and Frank Kelly took part in the sleep-out for the second year running, as did oldest member of the group, 66-year-old volunteer David Clark.

Merstham Councillor Frank Kelly said: “Even though it was cold, the volunteers made their shelters and got through it with good humour and camaraderie.

“Everyone remained buoyant, despite a few drops of rain, and we appreciated visits from MP Crispin Blunt and Deputy Mayor Steve Farrer.

“Social media was buzzing all night and we even had an international donation. Roll on SleepEasy 2015!”

Other SleepEasy events were carried out across the country by other YMCAs.

The final figure raised has yet to be calculated as donations are still coming in.

For more details on Reigate and Redhill YMCA projects and other fundraising challenges, visit the charity's website at: www.ymcaredhill.com

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