The Big Youth Sleep Out

The Big Youth Sleep Out

We had a very successful AGM for North Yorkshire Youth held at the Centre on 13th October. As part of the event we hosted the Big Youth Sleep Out. We had nearly forty young people sleeping rough on site for the night. This was after hearing stories and listening to speakers talking about homelessness and the effects it has on young people. 

Panda an NYY Youth Development Worker has put the following Blog together to describe the night and how it felt to sleep out over night. 

Panda’s Blog – A night spent ‘homeless’

4.02pm – I arrive at Carlton Lodge at the tail end of the afternoon of activities North Yorkshire Youth put on every year for the voluntary youth clubs. Young people are building rafts, jumping in the water. It’s unseasonably mild but I still hope Staithes Youth Club get dry properly before they take part in The Big Youth Sleep Out tonight. I think about tonight - should I take my contact lenses out? Do homeless people wear contact lenses? I’m not sure if they do. I decide I’ll leave them in in case I have to get my bearings quickly.

5.01pm – Sue and Selby Youth Council are here for the Sleep Out; they shout “hello.” I feel excited about youth work and how it can give people opportunities to do cool stuff. I hope they learn something from this. The Youth Executive and Young People’s Council turn up with Kevin and Kathy from NYCC, more hellos, more opportunities.

5.36pm – We’ve done the AGM; everyone’s here who’s sleeping out and we’re having our tea. Fill up I think, “You never know when you’ll eat again!” It strikes me quite intensely that I know exactly when I’ll eat again…

6.30pm – The talks start, it’s hard because it’s so stuffy but everyone tries because This Is Important. It IS important. I hold back my emotions as young people tell us where they’ve slept rough, how abuse, mental illness and sexuality - which they have no control over - have made them homeless, how they wish things were different. The agencies, charities and councillors wish things could be different. We all wish things could be different. How do we make things different?

8.45pm – We let everyone out, our souls are cramped and uncomfortable, our legs too. We play with cardboard boxes and stake our place. I get a bit panicky when I realise my place has been staked by a family of spiders, it makes me shudder to think of them sharing my box. I move on with my manager and friend Clare. I’m glad she’s here, I already feel vulnerable and territorial, she’ll watch my back and I’ll watch hers.

10.30pmish – David our CEO (who I respect immensely for getting down with the kids and mucking in with the staff) shouts everyone to the fire. My colleague Ian’s made us a cosy fire! Good, it’s getting a little bit chilly and I’m bored. I wonder if homeless people get bored. I bet they do, no distractions, lots of thinking time, lots of overthinking time, not good for mental health. I wish things were different.

11.46pm – Time to dampen down the fire. We’ve had a sing, we’re ready for bed, well, I am. I’m getting sleepy. Should I take my shoes off?

1.30am – It’s still not quiet. I feel weird and exposed. I realise how little privacy you have on the streets. It’s not just material things you lose when you’re homeless.

2.30am – It’s still not quiet.

2.55am – My hips hurt, I’ve slept for about 10 minutes. I see a spider, I don’t care anymore…

3.33am – Why are young people wandering around? I know them, they are nice when we shush them and tell them to “Get back to bed!”. I don’t think people would be so nice if we were in a city centre on a Saturday night. SASH told us when people become homeless they often go to places that hold good memories. I wonder where I’d go, not to a city…

5am – Am I hallucinating? There’s a bunch of girls sitting at a picnic bench chatting away. I listen to them, they seem okay. A lad walks past us, he’s had enough of the group he’s with and wants some time alone to be quiet. I think that must be hard when you’ve nowhere of your own. Boys are more likely to have to sleep rough because girls get taken in more by friends’ families. I wonder how refugees feel when they can’t even share our language and have no friends yet… I feel some raindrops on my face and pull my sleeping bag higher.

6.39am – I check my phone to see what time sunrise is – 7.34am today. It is quiet at last. I can see the sky lightening, a bird sings. It never really rained. I want to sleep a bit longer.

6.55am – I roll my sleeping bag up and put it in the car. The car! I could have slept in there, people do. I think it would be cheating. I would cheat if I had to do it all again tonight. I get really sad at the thought of people who can’t choose, and I feel selfish and stupid. I need to try to make a change, I need to educate people. How though?

7.45am – Kevin’s made breakfast for everyone, we’ve all been fed; this is not like being homeless. We’re tidying up. I hear Kathy talking to some of the young people about Their Pledge. Some want to raise money for homeless charities, some want to campaign to change the rules, some just want to be friendly, say “hello,” give food to people and make sure homeless people see a smile at least once a day. It’s then that I realise we are making a difference, it’s small but it is happening. I smile, keep on hoovering and think that I’m glad I spend the night at The Big Youth Sleep Out. I’m glad we all did.

9.07am – I get in the car to go home. Back to my safe, comfy space and I wish the same for everyone. I drive away thinking how lucky I’ve been with the weather all night. I realise it’s not just the weather I’ve been lucky with…

Panda Gledhill

Youth Development Worker for Ryedale and Hambleton South. North Yorkshire Youth.