On 10th November, I slept outside Manchester Cathedral with a group of colleagues. As an abstract idea it seemed like a simple and easy thing to do, but the reality was much different.
I have lived and worked in Manchester city centre for just over 3 years now. Over this time, the number of people sleeping on the streets seems to have increased dramatically. It’s a sad thing, when you are no longer surprised by the numbers of people you see living on the streets every day, and something needs to be done about it. Cue the amazing work that the Booth Centre does, and the reason that it is so important to support them.
We started the night with a talk about the Booth Centre from Amanda Croome and we heard from some of the Centre’s users whilst fortifying ourselves with hot drinks in preparation for the cold we knew was waiting outside. One thing that really got me, from Amanda’s speech, is the rise of trench foot in the homeless community. This is an illness that was rife in the first world war due to the water standing in the trenches where the soldier’s lived, and is now prevalent in a community in 2017. This just seems wrong. It was in the forefront of my mind throughout the night, and especially in the morning as I put my wet socks into my wet shoes. However, I knew they were the first things I would take off when I got home, something that homeless people don’t have the opportunity to do.
After an amazing performance by the Streetwise Opera group and a sing along, we were sent outside in to the wild. It was a grim night, but that was all it was, just one night. The rain and the cold kept us shivering in our several layers of clothes and sleeping bags, under umbrellas. I didn’t really sleep during the night. The lights, the noise and the uncertainty of the surroundings making relaxing into slumber virtually impossible.
When it was over and we were back in the Cathedral at the end of the night, conversation turned to getting home to our hot baths and our warm beds. We sat drinking tea and eating our bacon sandwiches. This was just an interruption in the general course of our lives. A chance to say that yes we did something really good for charity, and whilst we will continue to work with and support the Booth Centre, it is very easy for us to just move on and return to our normal lives. The homeless community in Manchester don’t have this chance. They can’t just wash the experiences, the cold and the dirt from their bodies and put their wet clothes straight in the washing machine.
We had experienced some form of sleeping out, but a very diluted form, a safe environment with other people’s body heat, security staff, fences and tea and coffee on demand. It is something that I will always remember, and I will never think about homelessness in the same way again.
Jayne Howell, Team Eversheds Sutherland