London City Mission (LCM) is challenging Christians across the UK to spend a night on the streets in its Big Winter Sleepout on November 19.
The seventh annual sleepout aims to raise vital funds to combat the predicted surge in homelessness this year, while helping participants better understand what it’s like to be homeless.
Anni Uddin, field director for homeless and marginalised at London City Mission, said:
The reality of homelessness in this country is heartbreaking – and it’s likely to be significantly worse this winter.”
The Big Winter Sleepout is a powerful way to step into the life of those on our streets, experience what they face, and hopefully stir our hearts to engage with them in our daily lives. This is beyond just donating money; it is giving time and effort to change your perceptions about homelessness as you help make a change in the lives of people who are homeless.
This winter, it is estimated that 1.2 million households in the UK are at the risk of becoming homeless. After a decrease in homelessness from 2021 to the summer of 2022, this forecast would mean the undoing of the efforts of so many who have been supported out of homelessness.
Prior to 2021, white homeless and rough sleepers dropped but unfortunately, the number of Black rough sleepers has increased from 14 per cent to 23 per cent. John Akhirebhu has taken part in the Big Winter Sleepout every year since 2019, he says: “Just last year, when I did a little research into this issue, I found out that not all people who are homeless are on the street because of substance abuse. BAME groups have been more vulnerable to becoming homeless.*
We need to look beyond the race of the individuals on the street, and just support in the whatever way we can.”
Funds raised from the Sleepout will go towards the charity’s Webber Street day centre in Waterloo. Webber Street is a place where those struggling with homelessness can go to during the day and receive hot breakfasts, clean clothes, help with finding accommodation, career advice and a chance to hear the good news of Jesus shared to them lovingly. Last year, Webber Street provided more than 10,000 breakfasts, 2,000 showers and hundreds of clothes and toiletries. The centre is also home to the Corner House, a short-term accommodation home, where mid-term housing is provided for four men at a time.
Brian is a former regular guest at Webber Street day centre. After falling into difficult times, he found Webber Street and found community and support to get himself to a better situation. He says: “It saved my life, no doubt.”
“I was on my way to death. The money that you will donate is going to go so far and reach so many different people. It’s just going to be so helpful for those individuals.”
Anyone that’s interested can sign-up for the Sleepout here: lcm.org.uk/sleepout. Participants can complete the sleepout at the Webber Street day centre or it can done in their back garden, balcony or doorstep.
Written by: Priscilla Obilana