Big hearts take part in the Big Sleep Out

Big Sleep Out at Peterborough Cathedral. EMN-180929-175830009
Big Sleep Out at Peterborough Cathedral. EMN-180929-175830009

Dozens of people braved the evening chill by sleeping rough at Peterborough Cathedral last Friday night to raise more than £3,500 for three homeless charities.

Seventy hardy souls took part in the Big Sleep Out which was organised by YMCA Trinity Group, Hope into Action and the Light Project Peterborough.

One of those who slept under a cardboard shelter overnight was Julie Ainley, who works for the YMCA’s Time Stop hostel in Wellington Street, which provides emergency accommodation for 16 to 25-year-olds.

Julie (49) from Werrington was joined by fellow Time Stop staff Steph Smith, Femi Olasoko and Ross Ayres, as well as Ross’ 10-year-old daughter Cleo, for the sleep out.

She said: “This was my second sleep out. I’ve always been passionate about helping homeless people. I was effectively homeless myself at 16.

“I never had to sleep on the streets but sofa surfed for three months so I have an understanding of having no home.

“Being vulnerable and having no money - that’s my motivation for wanting to help homeless people.

“Even though I can fundraise it never feels like that’s enough. There’s clearly a big problem and the numbers of rough sleepers are not decreasing.

“It really is quite difficult sleeping rough just for one night, never mind living on the streets. And we were in a safe area, fed and had access to toilets.

“It was not a true reality of homelessness, but it gives you a snippet of what it’s like.”

Femi added: “I feel very blessed and thankful that I have a home to go to in the morning, but I can’t quite find comfort in the fact that today hundreds of homeless people will have to do this again tonight, tomorrow night and every night after that.”

Participants were given materials to build their shelter for the night and were fed by Peterborough Soup Kitchen.

Deputy Mayor of Peterborough Cllr John Fox and Deputy Mayoress Cllr Judy Fox also attended during the evening to lend some support.

Jonathan Martin, chief executive of YMCA Trinity Group, said: “A huge well done to everyone that took part in this year’s Big Sleep Out. To say it was cold is an understatement!

“But everyone who took part did so with a smile on their face, and it certainly gave a glimpse into what it’s like to be living on the streets.”

The event follows on from Sleep Easy last year and forms part of Peterborough’s 900 campaign to celebrate the cathedral’s landmark anniversary. For more information, visit: https://ymcatrinitygroup.org.uk/big-sleep-out/.