It’s Friday evening in Freshney Place. The customers and shop staff have gone home. The shutters have been lowered. The builders have shut down for the night. Everywhere is quiet.
Everywhere other than Level 6 of the West Car Park that is. There it’s a hive of activity, the empty building echoing to the sound of unfurling duct tape and the vigorous folding of carboard as more than seventy volunteers work to construct their accomodation for the night from boxes and plastic sheeting. And although they’re under the cover of a roof there are big open windows on all sides so it’s still pretty cold. Certainly not a place you’d choose to stay the night without a very good reason.
Welcome to the YMCA Humber’s Sleep Easy 2017.
The Sleep Easy began in 2011 and has raised more than £125,000 for the YMCA and other charities in that time. At the time of writing £4,000 has been collected from this year’s event and there’s lots more on the way. If you’d like to donate then there are contact details overleaf.
This is the fourth year that Freshney Place has played host to the event. Food and drink has been generously provided by Tesco. But it’s still going to be a tough old night and when we visit there are some serious construction projects underway.
There’s a wide variety of styles of build on show, from the simple but effective Toblerone favoured by bank manager Simon Smith (a veteran of four Sleep Easys) through stockades that look as if they were designed to repel nocturnal ambush rather than keep out the cold. At one end of the car park a magnificent nine person bivouac has been constructed by a team from Rotaract, while several others feature silver foil, neat windows and even eviction notices.
Everyone looks like they’re enjoying themselves but there’s also a commendable seriousness about the event. Talking to some of the participants I get an idea of how serious people are about this project and how committed to working to eliminate the suffering caused by homelessness.
Simon Smith explains that it’s the raising of money and awareness that motivates him to spend the night in the cold while mother and daughter team Louise Zaremba and Augustine Harsent stress that homelessness is an issue that everyone should care about because it could happen to anyone.
Jonathan Byrne, YMCA Humber’s Events and Marketing Lead explains why the Sleep Easy is so important.
“The support for Sleep Easy has been incredible over the past six years but regrettably the problem of youth homelessness is one that is worsening. Rising rents, a lack of affordable housing and welfare support cuts mean that it is increasingly hard for young people to thrive in independent living. We house over a hundred young people each night of the year and without places like YMCA, they would have nowhere to live.”
“As a YMCA, it is our dream to one day be able to build a multipurpose campus style project that provides all the opportunities that young people need to belong, contribute and thrive in their local community and with the support of the public and businesses through events like Sleep Easy, we believe that we can turn that dream into reality.”
You can find more information about Sleep Easy and the work of YMCA Humber by visiting www.sleep-easy.co.uk. For further information call Jonathan Byrne on 01472 359 621 or email email@example.com.