Last night, some of the members of JCI Sheffield gathered together and joined other supporters of Sheffield’s Cathedral Archer Project to spend a night sleeping rough and experience what it might be like to be homeless, and raise money for this worthy cause. Right now, the total raised by the JCI team stands at a whopping £725, smashing our £500 target. The team reflected on their experience:
Sandra Pilarczyk, 2012 President of JCI Sheffield
“It seemed a good idea at the time: Sleeping outside for one night to help raise money and awareness for the Cathedral Archer project. The 23rd March came closer and closer and all week I was afraid of just one thing: Being cold! I am always cold in the UK and I truly don’t enjoy it!
Friday evening came and I did what I everybody told me to do: Layered up: tights, socks, leggings, jeans, T-Shirt and three jumpers- after all I didn’t want to be cold during the night. We were greeted by the fundraising manager and manager of the project with lovely tea and biscuits. A team of 12 of us proudly paraded our newly purchased JCI Sheffield hats and hoodies, taking as many pictures as possible.
The time came when we had to settle down for the night. What happens, if you bring the JCI Sheffield team together for a night? Plenty of laughter, coupled with ghost stories, brain storming and general entertainment provided by all! The noises of the night surrounded us; the tram, people passing, police checking up on us and there was even a rat – scared away by our laughter! Slowly but surely the noises settled down and so did we. At no stage did I feel scared. After all I was surrounded by friends, closely guarded by the Archer Project Manager, who stayed up all night to make sure that we are all safe.
Woken by up by yet some more laughter, I opened my eyes and was surrounded by damp fog. A wet, bright and foggy morning! And then it hit me – It was 6am on a Saturday morning, my sleeping bag and mat were wet, my muscles stiff from sleeping on the floor – where would I go if I was really homeless? How would I feel waking up alone, not knowing where to go for a cuppa and a sarnie, unable to share my experience with friends? How would I be able to survive the day, knowing that I would be waking up in exactly the same position tomorrow morning? Maybe it wasn’t a true rough sleeping experience, but I certainly got the point. Homelessness is often not by choice and we need to do everything we can to help people breaking that cycle of hopelessness. The one thing I wasn’t all night was cold – which is really the least thing to worried about!”
Kate Senter, Immediate Past President of JCI Sheffield
“I really didn’t know what to expect as we made our way to the sleep out but as soon as we arrived we were welcomed by Tim and Tracy from the Archer Project, along with a couple of the homeless clients. Listening to them talk about the nightly routine of finding somewhere to sleep was overwhelming – some of these guys are probably the same age as my father. Maybe they are someone’s father.
The evening passed quickly but that’s par for the course when you’re with JCI friends – although this is the first time I’ve actually huddled for warmth with them. Although we survived the night we all reflected that for the guys we met, this is their reality – we got to go home, take a shower and crash on the sofa in the place we call home. For the clients, their day will be spent drying out their clothes from the morning dew and looking for tonight’s spot to bed down. It’s a sobering thought.”
Ilona Alcock, Personal Development Director
“I was worried about a lot of things when I signed up to do the Big Sleep Out. Would it rain? Would I be warm enough? Would I manage to get any sleep? As it got closer I started thinking about what food I could take with me, what we would do to keep ourselves entertained and what would be comfiest to wear.
Once we arrived though it was impossible to worry about these things. As Tim talked about the experiences of the Archer Project’s clients we were reminded that they have to do this every single day. Their worries are: will I be safe? Where can I find shelter where I will not be moved on? When will I be able to eat?
We were lucky. We had good weather, great company and all the extras we needed. Even so, come morning we were tired and a bit lacklustre. I could not imagine going from that to spending the day roaming round the streets, gearing up to do it again. And again. And again. Words cannot describe my overwhelming respect for the people who live that life but somehow find the courage and energy to start turning their lives around.”
Niki Davies, Marketing Director
“As I finished work on Friday evening I headed home to pack up the things I would need for the sleep out. I made a bee-line for my winter gear, thermals, sleeping bag and torch. I packed up some food and made my way to Sheffield Cathedral with the rest of the JCI Sheffield team to sleep ‘rough’ for a night. We were welcomed by Tim and Tracey who told stories of the homeless people that come to the project and the individuals they help every day.
I listened to their stories of how their clients are able to visit the Cathedral Archer Project, get a meal and a warm drink, make a phone call, see a doctor, have a wash, and be in a safe environment surrounded by the incredible people who give up their time to help the homeless. Tracey showed us around the facilities and I immediately felt thankful, and almost foolish when I looked down at my thick winter coat, felt the warmth of my wholly hat and the fur inside my winter boots, all of which I had completely taken for granted.
As we settled on the grass outside Sheffield Cathedral, wrapped in our sleeping bags, surrounded by friends, it was difficult to imagine how lonely it must be to experience that every night, and how frightening it must be. As we packed up our gear the next morning, Gavin, an Archer Project client who had been with us throughout the night asked the questions ‘How about doing that again tonight, and tomorrow night, and the night after?’. We all knew that that was exactly what he would be going through, and it hit home that there are thousands of people going through this every day, and we had experienced only one night of it, in somewhat easy circumstances.
The experience has changed my perspective completely and I urge anyone to get involved, either in the next Archer Project sleep out of if you’re not from Sheffield, your local equivalent. The Cathedral Archer Project do some incredible work and I urge your to show your support.”
Katie Jackson, Sports & Social Director
“This time last year I had not even heard of the Archer Project, but if you fast forward to the present day you will find that I rarely go a full week without some involvement in trying to raise awareness within the local community or trying to raise funds for the Project.
Why the sudden enthusiasm and passion I hear you ask, well I challenge you to experience a tour around the building and a quick talk with the individuals that work there or clients that visit there on a daily basis and tell me you do not feel the same.
Last night I got to experience the next level of support by sleeping rough for the night outside the Cathedral, to experience what most of the clients of the Project go through on a daily basis. I was lucky, I got to experience it with my JCI Sheffield council team and some close chamber friends and only had to do it for one night, I could then return to my nice warm house and comfy bed.
I think for everyone that was there last night we realised just how lucky we are and how fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads. We were not going to be moved on by the police (although they did try!), have people come and give us trouble and steal our belongings, have to contemplate when our next meal or drink would be, or even where we would spend the next 24 hours to kill yet another day on our own, without the support of our family or friends.
The night was to be my first ever camping experience and I guess you could say I don’t do things by halves! I will never forget my phone call with Vicky just before I set off for the nights activities when she said “what have we let ourselves in for!”, both with such nerves and butterflies in our stomach. Looking back today it was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad that I did it. I just hope that from all of our posts on social media and in the local community that we will make even more people aware of the fabulous work that the project does and maybe this time next year they will be feeling the same.
So all that is left to to be said is that the next one will be later this year on Tuesday 11th September and I challenge you to join us and make it through one night sleeping rough. See you in September!”
JCI Sheffield would like to thank everyone who donated to the Archer Project sleep out and helped raise money for the Cathedral Archer Project. We would also like to thank everyone who sent us and the rest of the team support messages via Twitter / Facebook / Email, and even those that turned up on the night to wish us well!
Want to get involved?
There is still time to donate to the Cathedral Archer Project sleep out and you can do so at our Just Giving page. The next Archer Project Sleep Out will take place on Tuesday 11th September, and we would love for you to get involved. Contact the Cathedral Archer Project to reserve your place.
Categorised in: Cathedral Archer Project
This post was written by makedo