Earlier this month Dave Richards and Kate Tindall were exposed to the winter elements, receiving an insight into what it means to sleep rough as they joined Lifewise’s Big Sleeptout. AUT’s quad was home to a record 119 people for the night, who braved low temperatures and beds of cold concrete, rewarded for their commitment by donations from friends and family.
The sixth annual Big Sleepout, Lifewise’s interactive fundraising event, recreated the experiences of a rough sleeper, while raising funds to further Lifewise’s work in ending homelessness.
Here Dave talks about his experiences from the night.
So Dave, did you get any sleep?
Yes. I did get some sleep but it was hard to get off to sleep with the light pollution and what sleep I had was interrupted on a regular basis by the noises of the city at night. I think Kate slept a bit better than I did.
How did it feel to be sleeping rough?
I didn’t really feel vulnerable because Lifewise go out of their way to ensure that the Big Sleepout is a safe experience for those volunteering to take part. However, it was obvious that if we were really homeless, we would have been very vulnerable to all sorts of dangers.
What concerned you the most about sleeping rough?
As I said above, the Big Sleepout experience was very safe but it provided a good reminder, even if only for one night, of some of the difficulties that homeless people face. Just trying to find somewhere safe, dry and ideally warm is very difficult; somewhere you won’t get assaulted or abused; somewhere you won’t have your few essential possessions stole; somewhere that you can be protected from the elements; somewhere you won’t get moved on from. I can now understand why some choose to sleep in shop doorways where they might be dry and be sufficiently well-lit to reduce the risk of assault. But I don’t think I would be able to sleep there either with all the light pollution and constant passers-by disturbing you.
Did it make you think about how tough it must be to be homeless?
Absolutely yes. It would be so tough to be homeless. You feel so vulnerable. Because you are so vulnerable! And it is so hard to find somewhere to stop where you won’t be moved on or worse. And you have to carry all your possessions everywhere with you, which is hard work.
And the next day, after one perfectly safe but disturbed night sleeping out, I was exhausted and befuddled. After just one night! How soft am I?! I can’t imagine how I would feel after a week. Or longer. It would just be impossible to function rationally.
And I can’t see how, without the help of organisations like Lifewise, you would be able to escape from homelessness. It traps you.
From your point of view, what are the biggest challenges you would face if you didn’t have a home to go home to?
My big 3 challenges would be
- How to stay alive
- How to stay healthy
- How to stop being homeless
Maybe life could begin again after sorting out challenge 3 but 1. and 2. would be top priorities.
Would you encourage others to take part next year?
Absolutely I would. Lifewise make sure this is a safe experience but provide an excellent taster so that you can understand just some of the daily difficulties and hazards facing homeless people. It’s a good eye-opener, especially for those of us that live a comfortable life. It is also an opportunity to help publicise the issue and to raise some money to support organisations like Lifewise who are working to end homelessness.
What would you like to say to all those who sponsored you?
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your donations go directly to services to end homelessness.
Over 30,000 New Zealanders are extremely housing deprived, and recent street counts indicate that rough sleeping, the most extreme form of homelessness, has risen dramatically. There are also thousands of “hidden homeless;” people sleeping in substandard accommodation like cars, garages and overcrowded homes.
119 Rough Sleepers
4835 Donations made
Amount raised to date $278,278.91
This year, the goal was to beat last year’s total of $177,000.00 and thanks to the Rough Sleepers the target has been met. But it is not too late to sponsor Dave, Kate or another rough sleeper. You can also donate to the End Homelessness Project rather than directly sponsoring a person. You have until Friday 31 July to do so. Give generously.