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Cardboard boxes will be provided for participants in Seaview's sleep-out event (photo: Seaview)..

Cardboard boxes will be provided for participants in Seaview’s sleep-out event (photo: Seaview).

Are you ready for a night of sleeping rough?

Fancy a brief taste of homelessness? Seaview Project is organising the Big Sleep, a mass sleep-out to allow local residents to experience a little of what life is like for the growing number of those who find themselves homeless and sleeping on the streets. Nick Terdre reports.

The Big Sleep will take place on Friday 25 September in the Stade Open Space. You are advised to wear warm, water-proof clothing and bring a sleeping bag, but cardboard boxes will be provided. It will be cold and it will be tough, says Seaview, which has also designed the event to raise funds for its work. “Homelessness and rough sleeping won’t go away tonight or even tomorrow, but with your help, we can make a difference,” they say.

Between 8 and 10pm all will be welcome to the Stade Open Space to watch live performances by King Size Slim and reggae band, Mighty Sounds. The area will then be closed to all except the sleep-out participants, who will be able to enjoy an unplugged set around a brazier and hear a bedtime story read to them by a special guest. There will be a soup run before bedtime, hot drinks available throughout the night and porridge served in the morning.

big sleep POSTER resizedTo take part, you need to register and raise your own funds – you’ll only get your ticket to the sleep-out once you have brought in £25. Larger amounts are of course welcome and there will be prizes for the most successful fundraisers.

If you’re interested, don’t take too long to let Seaview know: by late July, more than 80 had registered for the 150 places and 30 had raised enough to earn their ticket, operations manager Sue Burgess tells HOT.

In addition to homelessness, the Big Sleep is also intended to raise awareness of Seaview and its work: the charity for the homeless and the vulnerable celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. That’s a remarkable achievement and a great testimony to the hard work put in by all its workers, but it comes at a time when the need for its services is growing while funding is falling.

“We’re finding that we’re seeing more and more people rough-sleeping on the streets,” Sue tells HOT. “We’re regularly verifying up to 12 people each week, whereas a few years ago it was four to six.”

The root cause is the swingeing government cuts to benefits for the poorest and the ease with which benefits can be stopped. The result is that increasing numbers find themselves unable to pay their rent and facing eviction. And that’s before the latest round of cuts announced by the Chancellor this week has taken effect. “We know it’s only going to get worse,” says Mike Cornish, strategy manager.

While Westminster’s tax policies directly increase the number of those pushed into poverty, its squeeze on local authority funding is also crippling the ability of organisations like Seaview to help the victims. Seaview’s grant from Hastings Borough Council for working with the homeless has fallen from £29,000 in 2014/15 to £20,000 in the current year and will drop further to £18,500 in 2016/17. In other words, in two years it will have been reduced by a third.

Though helping people with accommodation crises is one of Seaview’s major activities, the charity also assists many vulnerable people whose lives have fallen apart for other reasons, but who can’t cope with the statutory welfare agencies. And the overall numbers seeking assistance from Seaview are also growing: over the years, the charity has probably helped 700-800 a year, says Mike, but at present it’s more than 1,000.

To register for the Big Sleep, click here or call 01424 717 981.

See also the Big Sleep Facebook page.

Seaview Project Southwater Centre, Hatherley Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN37 6LB. Tel 01424 717981. Open Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm, except Wed 10am-2pm.

 

 

Posted 20:48 Thursday, Jul 30, 2015 In: Home Ground

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. M Corbett

    Glad to hear that this organisation helps people “who can’t deal with the statutory welfare agencies”. Is there anyone who can cope with them, vulnerable or not?

    It might be difficult for anyone who has not had to deal with them, to understand just how horrific it can be to try to claim the “benefits” you will have been paying into through NI your whole working life. I’m lucky enough to have my own home and money in the bank now but very very nearly ended up losing everything a few years ago after redundancy and life threatening illness.

    The sneering lout behaviour of the benefits agency staff was deeply distressing and nearly finished me off. I survived only because one lawyer decided to help me pro bono when I was two days away from the repossession of my home. All the best to this organisation helping those who have nowhere else to turn, please don’t give up.

    Comment by M Corbett — Saturday, Aug 8, 2015 @ 12:38

  2. Sue

    Thank you Nick, it’s a great article. The interest in the Big Sleep is gaining momentum and work behind the scenes continues. All participants will receive a goodie bag including an eye mask and ear plugs and for those who raise £75 or more, they will receive an exclusive Big Sleep T shirt. Look forward to seeing you at the event.

    Comment by Sue — Monday, Aug 3, 2015 @ 22:31

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