The three Oundle buses arrived in the centre of Birmingham at eight p.m. with a clear sky. Just as the sun faded away, we began to set up our boxes in the Car Park of St. Basil’s, preparing for the long night ahead of us. It soon dawned on us how unsympathetic the night was planning to be, and how little sleep we were actually going to get, however weary we became. Our miniscule cardboard ‘dwellings’ would provide little comfort from the wilderness that is the St. Basil’s car park. However, with bottomless tea and coffee, and bacon butties for sale, our stomachs were content.
If you are pondering what on earth one hundred and forty Oundle pupils are doing congregated in the heart of Birmingham on a Friday night, then listen up! St. Basil’s is an organisation that aids young people who are in danger of becoming homeless or are homeless. It provides them with a bed and a roof over their head. However that is not all they do. They help young people to acquire a job, sort out their problems and get back on track, and finally to secure them a place to live.
There are many situations that can lead to a person becoming homeless, the most common being the loss of a job, leading to inability to pay rent, the break up of relationships or an addiction to drugs, alcohol or even gambling.
The night began with talks in the St. Basil’s Chapel from helpers of the charity. Prior to the talk, we anticipated a monotonous presentation, and we would have much preferred to be munching on a sandwich. However, very soon a lady took to the stage who told us of her very own personal experience of homelessness, , and she woke us all up with some very disconcerting facts
“One in 20 of you will experience homelessness.” Although we all found this hard to believe, it nevertheless opened our eyes.
Then began The Big Oundle Sleep! We all mustered outside in the cold night with our steaming cups of tea clenched in our fists, held close to our faces so as to keep us warm. Teeth were chattering and legs shivering and gradually we began to become disheartened. If it was this cold at 10 o’clock, I didn’t want to think of how cold it was going to be at three in the morning. As the noise of the city slowly died down, but with the thud of the prominent night-club nearby still sounding, people slowly began to settle down for the night, and within the hour the car park was hushed, with a mass of bodies sprawled across the floor like sleeping lions. The light of the moon resembled a searchlight in the sky above us, and soon my tiredness over came me and I was put into a deep sleep.
When I woke up at five a.m. the next morning, in a collapsing box, I felt somewhat disoriented. The memories soon began to creep back into my mind, and I recollected where I was. I could vaguely make out bodies coming back to life, slowly rolling over and, in a state of confusion, wondering where they were. As lumps turned into creatures, creatures turned into people, and everybody began to get up. After a quick breakfast and a thorough clean up of the car park, we were assembled on the buses ready to go.
Reflecting on my night’s sleep, Perhaps the Sleep-Out should have been called ‘The Small Oundle Sleep-in-a-box-where-you-wont get-much-sleep-at-all.’ Although I got little sleep from the experience, it was a hugely awarding experience because we all did our part for the community of Birmingham, and for the people living homeless on the streets at this very moment. From now on when I crawl into my warm cosy bed in Bramston House, I will remember that not everybody is sleeping under a roof.