My chilling experience of a night spent sleeping rough

Reporter Nick Gill gives his personal account of a night spent sleeping rough as part of a charity fundraiser to raise money and awareness for homelessness

WITH seven jackets, four pairs of socks and what can only be described as leggings hidden under my jeans, I felt very well prepared for a night spent on a hard car park floor in sub-zero conditions - even if I looked a little bit like the Michelin man.

And after sliding into a series of particularly snug taped-up cardboard boxes - in size, not in comfort - which made up my shelter/bed, I have to admit feeling vaguely content at around midnight with the prospect of almost seven hours sleeping rough in a Stevenage car park.

By 2.30am that complacency had gone and been replaced with numb toes that, no matter how much I wiggled them for the next four hours, wouldn't warm up.

There-after it was a matter of catching a few more winks when my body allowed me to, while spending the rest of the time clock-watching, turning over, squeezing my toes together to generate any heat I could and thinking of the warm breakfast promised for 6.30am. The relief of crashing into a deep sleep in my own bed not long after provided just as much motivation to 'lay tight'.

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As the minutes and hours ticked by, slowly but certainly surely, my mind, between visions of egg and bacon, began to wander to rather different activities I usually pass the time with on a Saturday night but kept returning to the same sobering point: those living on the streets in Comet country would not have such luxuries to look forward to, only another night outside in the freezing cold. I get the feeling my toes would've winced at the thought, if they could.

Saturday night also offered a real sense of community spirit amongst the ranks, as those bedding down by my side were faced with a taster of what is a daily reality for the homeless - the very people who seem to be very much alone.

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But what fundraising events like these highlight is that what YMCA Central Herts offer are these two things - accommodation and support - which is so vital for those in need.

You may or may not have seen someone sleeping rough, but with an estimated 380,000 people classed as homeless in the UK, they are out there. And from one night spent outside, I can tell you anybody who has to endure this in anything but in the name of charity is one too many.

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