Students sleep in -7° and raise over £4000 for homeless

Last Friday, Leeds Beckett students and faculty members slept on Headingley Campus, enduring cold as low as -7°, to raise money for St George’s Crypt, a Leeds based charity who provide support and resources for homeless and vulnerable people in the city.

In 2017, approximately 28 people were sleeping on the street in Leeds, according to government statistics, in addition to ‘sofa surfers’ and those in emergency accommodation. This figure is rising every year.

People picking up sheets of cardboard

Volunteers getting their ‘beds’ for the night

The night was organised by Leeds Beckett Student Union volunteering team and as of Monday 26th February, raised an impressive £4439 from both individual and group donations. To put this into context, £2500 will help one person in the ‘Growing Rooms‘ through a year of the therapeutic element of their recovery.

Verity Griffiths, St George’s Crypt Community Fundraiser, spoke about about the charity and how it helps homeless and vulnerable people from across Leeds.

“We offer people the opportunity to get involved with all sorts of training and engagement projects which help regain self-esteem and can become the building blocks to a new life. The Crypt provides community for people who don’t have a support system to help them in their hour of need”.

Those who are part of St George’s Crypt can sometimes struggle to maintain recovery, but thanks to an “open door ethos”, they will always be welcomed back to try again.

Sophie Moody, Leeds Beckett Community Engagement Coordinator sees the event as an opportunity for people to learn more about homelessness and empathise with those suffering. She says, “it’s a really unique way of fundraising, because you get to experience the cause that you’re fundraising for”.

Back of two people sat up on cardboard

One of the people taking part, Ian Lamond, who is a senior lecturer at the university, saw the event as an opportunity to make a positive impact on a cause he holds close to his heart.

“I’ve had a number of people who I’m close to who have ended up homeless for all sorts of reasons … A former partner, many moons ago. They were attacked and that seemed to spiral into a depression, they lost their job, their landlord wasn’t a particularly nice landlord and they had no-where to go”.

Sadly, stories like this are seen regularly at St George’s Crypt. The charity relies on roughly £2.1 million a year to supply a range of support and resources to its users. The charity also depend on a grant from the council to provide mental health support for the ‘Growing Rooms boys’. However, Verity points out, “as with all grants, they can get withdrawn and then we would struggle to provide the counselling”.

Man sat up with sleeping bag over legs

Ian Lamond getting ready for a night under the stars

The night at Headingley campus had a true community atmosphere, as people got cosy under their blankets, enjoying pizza and hot drinks. Sophie says, “people joined up with different groups and got to know each other … they were warming up with other people and sharing blankets with people they had just met a few hours before”.

However, it must be noted that this is far from the true experiences of homelessness which many people experience nightly. As Sophie points out, “when it gets to 3 O’clock they can actually go home. Whereas, people who are cold on the nights, every night, don’t have anywhere to go. They don’t have that ‘in four hours I can get a shower, in four hours I can go to my own bed’.”

People who took part discovered a whole new meaning to ‘Leeds nightlife’. “I’m used to hearing birds in the morning but there seemed to be different waves of dawn calls that I haven’t heard before”, said Ian.

Saturday morning saw lots of tired, cold faces eager to get home to heating, warm beds and food – all luxuries that the volinteers won’t be taking for granted anytime time soon. Despite the cold turning fingers and toes to “ice blocks”, many said they are happy to have taken part and will definitely be back next year.

The Leeds Beckett volunteering team are planning to hold the event again next February, with students participating more in the planning process. “If we continue the way we have already”, Sophie says, “we’ll be able to make it even bigger next year”.

Click here to find out more about St George’s Crypt and what they do.

By Amy Harrison