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Saturday, 2 March 2013

I went homeless for 12 hours yesterday...

Yesterday evening I took part in an event outside Christ the Saviour Church, Ealing Broadway, where myself and about 20 people were given a cardboard box by the West London YMCA as part of their “Sleep Easy” event.

We were outside at the mercy of the weather for 12 hours. Although it was only for 12 hours and we had a cardboard box it gave me a sense of what it might be like if I was made homeless. So many people have negative opinions of those who are homeless but when I did this it gave me, perhaps in only a small way, a chance to try to understand the problems that occur when homeless.

Me in my cardbaord box
At the event were a number of other people from a range of backgrounds. One was an estate agent, another a teacher and one a social worker. There was a couple of people from the YMCA who do so much to help those who are homeless and they really do make a real [positive] difference for so many. To show support there was someone who was genuinely homeless. Fellow Councillor Jon Ball and Alex Nieora was also present.

The event was opened by Ealing's Mayor. When I usually see the Mayor, I am often dressed quite smart in a suit; but not last night. He spoke to us each and listened to why some of us were taking part in this initiative. For many it was to raise awareness, raise money for the cause and to see what it is like if you were made homeless.

If you can donate any money that would be very appreciated >

When we settled down to sleep at around 11pm the reality hit that you had no comfy bed or in many ways privacy. It was very noisy and difficult to sleep.

Here are some of the things I recall as I tried to sleep (it took me at least two hours to fall asleep) > Traffic, people playing football nearby, the wind, the coldness, police sirens, people's voices, the church bells and the fear of crime.

If I were not in a group then clearly I would be totally uneasy at having to sleep somewhere, where someone might attack you or steal something from you - even if a bottle of water. So you would hide away away from where people might see you. The fear of crime is certainly something that would be a real factor when trying to sleep.

When I woke up I felt achy, stiff and tired. I had slept in bursts of an hour here, and an hour there. All we had to drink was coffee, tea or water but it felt strangely like I had a hangover.

In the morning we got up and were luckily enough to have a sandwich. If I was properly homeless then when would I get my next meal? I reflected wondering what it would have been like if the weather had turned worse (it was about 2 degrees) - but if it was snowing or worse raining. I think that would have been hell.

If you have never took part in an initiative like this, you should do so. I think then you would have more of a perspective of how good our lives are now and that for many in Ealing their lives are not so good. When I go to bed tonight I will be remembering my Friday night experience.

I thank the West London YMCA for the chance to do this. They are an amazing organisation and help so many people in West London. Check out their website >


  1. Great job, Gary. Brave - and it really drives home how tough it must be to be homeless.

  2. Good post, Gary. As you know, I also took part on the night, and your sentiments here echo mine completely. It was such a thought-provoking experience and has really made me think about what it must be like to sleep rough, even though we had it so easy in comparison to those who do it in 'real life' night after night.

    Definitely made me appreciate my bed the next day.