Charity “delighted” with turnout in Stevenage charity sleep-out

OVER 70 people braved freezing temperatures on Saturday night to take part in three charity sleep-outs across Hertfordshire.

Westgate multi storey car park in Stevenage provided one of the venues for YMCA Central Herts’ Sleep Easy event, in a bid to raise money and awareness of homelessness.

Armed only with cardboard boxes for shelter, a total of 24 participants slept on the first floor of the Stevenge town centre car park, with more hardy souls taking part in simultaneous events at the Howard Centre in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield’s The Galleria.

With the temperature dropping below zero during the 7pm to 7am event, those who volunteered were visited by Stevenage Mayor Michael Downing, played games to keep warm, as well as tucking into cakes provided by Tesco’s.

Speaking after Saturday night’s event which hopes to beat last year’s total of �15,000, Steve Cook, of Knebworth, said: “I’ve had a bit of a rough year but rather than just feeling sorry for myself I wanted to do something for others.

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“I slept for about an hour and a half between visits to the loo but I found myself after four just wanting it to be morning.”

Mr Cook, who has so far raised nearly �400 for the charity, added: “I didn’t get to bed until 10pm the following day but then I slept like a baby all the way through!”

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A competition for the best shelter was also held on the night with designs including a ‘his’ and ‘hers’ cupboard and a triangular tent-shaped structure, all made from cardboard boxes.

“The feedback I’ve received was really really positive, everybody felt they got a huge insight into what homeless people have to go through on a daily basis,” said Michelle Gray, head of fundraising and marketing for YMCA Central Herts.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the response for the Stevenage event considering we haven’t yet got a YMCA Space centre in the town.”

YMCA Central Herts, who currently provide accommodation for 123 people locally, hope to open a drop-in facility which provides youth and community support services in Stevenage town centre within the next month.

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