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Windsor Sleep Out raises funds and awareness of town's homeless

Windsor Sleep Out raises funds and awareness of town's homeless

Philip Dewey

Windsor Sleep Out raises funds and awareness of town's homeless
Express reporter Philip Dewey took part in the Windsor Sleep Out.

Sleeping under the stars may seem like a romantic or fun proposition, but for some people in Windsor this is a daily dread.

Government statistics for April to June show six people living on the streets unintentionally in the Royal Borough and more are unrecorded.

The issue of homelessness came to a head in Windsor after the death of homeless man Patrick O'Leary, who died on the steps of Holy Trinity Church from cold and lack of care in March 2009.

In response, the Windsor Homeless Project was set up in the same year by Windsor Christian Action (WCA), then Windsor Churches Together, in a bid to prevent another charity.

On Friday, I took part in Windsor's first Sleep Out, organised by the project, which aimed to raise money for the cause and to raise awareness of homelessness in the town.

I entered the Windsor Youth and Community Centre, in Alma Road, with some trepidation knowing I would be spending a night with only a cardboard box, sleeping bag and a woolly hat to keep me warm.

More than 30 people joined in with the Sleep Out, which took place on a five-a-side football pitch in the grounds of the centre.

Prior to the sleeping part, the evening itself was quite enjoyable, with live music from singer-songwriters and a Vamp My Box competition which saw people decorating their cardboard shelters for the night.

By the time it came to lights out I was feeling shattered and looking forward to hitting the sack, thinking I would get off to sleep with no trouble.

Luckily the weather held out and the sleeping bag kept me fairly warm, but it was as far from a comfortable night as you can imagine and sleep was sparse.

Even with the security of sleeping in a secure venue, a luxury not afforded to most rough sleepers, it was hard to switch your mind off with relentless traffic, aircraft speeding past and the wind rustling in the bushes.

I kept adjusting my position hoping to find a comfortable spot but it was futile. I looked up and stared at the sky until my eyes were just too tired to stay open.

In what seemed like five seconds later, the day was beginning to break and it was time to get up and face the world - with a stiff back and neck.

A much-needed bacon sandwich and a cup of tea kept me awake for the drive home but as soon as I entered the house I went straight back to bed.

For one night, knowing that a warm bed and a relaxing day was ahead of you, sleeping rough was just about manageable but the thought of those who do it night after night is unbearable. 

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