By Abigail Stevens, Managing Director of Think Global Recrutiment
Last night I slept rough to raise awareness and money for the homeless community in Scotland. As a seasoned camper, I thought it would be no problem. I was wrong. It’s December, and we are going through our winter here in Scotland. Although it was still way above the normal temperatures for December, I was so cold! I feel I have been awake all night, which I guess I was. I didn’t go to ‘bed’, which was a sleeping bag on a bed mat, until 3.30am, thinking that I would crash if I left it as long as possible. However, despite being in a good sleeping bag, wearing thermals, I woke up every half an hour shivering. The ground was so hard, I missed my lovely blow up mattress I use for my usual summer camping. I missed my lovely tent that keeps me warm and dry. I learnt a lot about myself and the suffering of those on the street.
When I first heard about the CEO Sleep Out I was immediately inspired to take part. Our office is on George Street in Edinburgh. Once a street full of banks, now a street full of upmarket shops, the odd office block and bank buildings that have been converted into glamorous bars and restaurants. If I leave the building at lunch time, whichever direction I go in, I will encounter at least one homeless person and at least one Big Issue seller. You hear people saying sometimes that people on the streets begging have more than they let on. On each occasion, I have often struggled with knowing if I should give money or not. Some people tell you not to because it will be spent on booze, cigarettes, or worse still, go to a cartel of professional beggars with managers putting them out to beg. What really appealed to me about the CEO Sleepout is that it is to raise money to build a village for 20 homeless people, giving them a roof over their head and an address that will allow them to seek work for 12 months. After which time, the hope is they will have secured a job and saved to afford to move to their own place so that another 20 people can move in. In my opinion, a very worthwhile project.
This amazing idea is being driven by Josh Littlejohn, an amazing young social entrepreneur who started Social Bite sandwich shops which employ homeless people and 100% of the profits go to the homeless. They also now have a restaurant called Home which does the same, but providing upmarket food. Both also offer the option to ‘pay forward’ where you buy a coffee or meal for a homeless person. From chatting to Josh last night I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. He has big plans to totally eradicate homelessness in the Scotland.
There is currently around 600 homeless people across Scotland. How amazing would it be for them to re-enter society as we know it and become self-sufficient with a roof over their head. When I first posted on my Facebook that I would be doing the Sleep Out and asked for donations, I was surprised by two friends who posted back that they had once been homeless. One from School whom I had lost and regained contact with and one whom I had met after that had happened. I also recall a number of other people in my life that had experienced homelessness and indeed, there have been moments in running my own business, when I have been dangerously close to losing my house. There are so many reasons why people end up on the streets, it is important to remember not to make any judgements about them. It could happen to any of us at any time.
Next time I see someone begging on the streets, I will stop and give them money. I don’t care if they spend it on booze, lets face it, I would need the comfort of a drink to endure another night sleeping rough, so why not give them that. This experience has changed my opinion on the challenges people face sleeping rough on the streets and now I will try hard to help others avoid having to go through it.
Donations for the CEO Sleep Out are open until Christmas Eve. If you would like to donate please visit here.