Victoria Atherstone On Friday 6th March I will be going through the painful experience of sleeping rough for one night yet again. I am doing this in the hope of raising awareness for those that suffer on the streets EVERY NIGHT OF THE YEAR come snow, heavy rain or gale force winds. And what do you do about your most treasured personal belongings or even the most basic of necessities? Like a change of clothing and cleaning your teeth? It breaks my heart to think that people like you and me suffer sleeping rough on the streets all year long. Homelessness is not a choice. I am hoping you will all find it your kind hearts to please sponsor me?

What does it feel like to sleep rough for just one night?

My experiences of sleeping rough for YMCA Cheltenham have been unbearable over the past two years! It’s a highly uncomfortable and depressingly cold experience and I wouldn’t wish homelessness on anyone.

I have always been very fortunate as I prepare for these one-night sleep outs. I have access to warm, clean clothes in my wardrobe and lots of outdoor cold weather gear to put on. But although I have wrapped up like a Michelin Man on both occasions, it was no good. Year one: The rain was relentless all NIGHT LONG, NOISILY BATTERING on my cardboard box (that didn't even cover my feet) I didn't sleep a wink. The tarmac mattress was so painful, my neck ached so bad in the morning :-( I went to put my walking boots back on but couldn't as they were full of water! Year two: almost a repeat of the previous year but instead or torrential rain the wind howled viciously, swooping into my (what is a luxury) insulated tarpaulin covered cardboard box.

The thing about sleeping on the streets is that you awake (not that you’ve properly slept) when the birds start singing as soon as the sun rises, this is approx. 6am in early March, grrr!!! The fact is – there’s no such thing as a good night’s sleep when you’re sleeping rough. And we all know that sleep is indeed essential to having a positive mental well-being.

Each time I have woken from my tarmac mattress I have felt so incredible miserable and grumpy. I can’t function without a proper night’s sleep – here’s evidence of a grumpy Vix:

I thank my lucky stars when I get home the morning after. Having access to a much-needed warm shower, clean clothes to put on, toothpaste and brush to clean my teeth and breakfast in the kitchen cupboard. These are some of the very simple things in life we all take for granted, every morning of every day. Do we really appreciate how so flipping fortunate we all are?

Due to severe lack of sleep, when I return home from these YMCA Sleep Easy fundraisers, I head straight for my comfortable duvet covered warm bed in my bedroom that’s graced with central heating. This is because I feel dreadful and have to catch-up on much-need missed sleep for at least a few hours!

I’m hoping this story will put life as it is into perspective, homelessness is not a choice, it can happen to anyone and when you least expect it. I would be so extremely grateful for any sponsorship support you’re able to offer. THANK YOU SO MUCH! x

YMCA Cheltenham works with some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They provide emergency winter accommodation for the homeless and those sleeping rough as well as providing more than 50,000 bed nights per year of supported accommodation. They offer these services for the homeless and those requiring a helping hand before living independently in the community. Victoria Atherstone