I recently took part in an event to raise money to help homeless charities. They give hope, help and respect to many and are in desperate need of donations to continue their tireless work.
So a bunch of us got on board for some manic fund raising as part of The Cold Truth campaign.
There was the usual cake sale, raffle prizes and PR campaigning to maximise donations. And thanks to so much generosity from colleagues, friends and family the campaign raised over £25,000 which was awesome.
Less awesome was the event, which was the prospect of sleeping outdoors for a night. But a hardy group of around a 100 people signed up and came with sleeping bags and smiles.
A spokesman from one of the charities spoke beautifully and humanised what life on the street is like. He said this sleep out would only bring a brief glimpse of life on the street. He wasn’t wrong.
In many ways we would be fine as this was just one night and anyone could function after a night of potentially poor sleep. Plus we had security, indoor toilets, hot drinks and food.
Our basic human needs (or rights?) would be catered for and we were all buzzing on the lead up to the sleep out, knowing the fundraising will ultimately benefit many homeless.
I had one conversation with someone beforehand who was against the use of one raffle prize, which was to win a restaurant meal, claiming the prize is offensive given the nature of the fund raising.
He may have had a point but that was the furthest from my thoughts as the night progressed and the eventuality of sleeping outdoors was sinking in.
The heavens opened early and stayed open all night. Our bed of cardboard turned to mush. Sleeping bags leaked and the cold truth of life on the street was glimpsed.
At one point I knew that sleep was not coming so I just layed there inside that thin layer of manmade fibre, but I was thankful.
Yes I was thankful that I was at least two pay cheques from life on the street, I was thankful that we had security to keep idiots from beating us up, that we had our basic dignity in check with a private toilet and thankful for the hot drinks on tap.
But what I was truely thankful for something else.
I was thankful for the warmth inside my bag. I was lucky my bag hadn’t leaked and that the warmth my tired body generated was keeping the elements at bay.
That most basic of needs, warmth, kept my spirit alive in those cold dark hours. And at the point I had the smallest glimpse of what life is like for many.
I wasn’t ever naive regarding hardships on the street but even the slightest glimpse really is a cold truth of something anyone could face.