You changed Mark's life

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The Advent Sleepout Challenge is a lot of fun and we hear from so many groups that tell us what a great time they’ve had taking part. But, as well as the fun that’s being had, all of our participants are taking part because they want to do some good during the Christmas season.

The £165,000 raised in the last two years has made a huge difference. There were 4,000 bed spaces provided last winter for those who had nowhere else to go. And this is not just a statistic, there are real people behind this number. People like Mark.

Our Joint Venture (a partnership between us and a local Church of England diocese) in Norfolk, Imagine Norfolk Together, have worked to set up and run The Living Room, a project that provides a safe overnight space for rough sleepers from January to March.

Mark arrived at the Living Room on the second week of its opening, and attended every week. Mark had become homeless when he had to change benefits from ESA to Universal Credit. He tried to complete his Universal Credit claim by himself, but omitted some essential information and his claim was closed, leaving him with no income.

Mark wanted to leave the streets, but his previous experiences with local agencies had left him feeling negative. He was suffering with depression and had struggled with shared accommodation but was unable to rent a home due to his lack of income. That is how he found himself at the Living Room Project.

This is what he had to say about his time at the Living Room Project,

“The Living Room built me back up again. I had a nice comfortable place to sleep. I always found that the staff were there to offer advice if needed. They were always interested in whatever I was doing.”

Once he started attending The Living Room, Ana, the project coordinator, began to meet Mark regularly on a one-to-one basis. She made a support plan with him and helped him make contact with local agencies, order a birth certificate, open a credit union account, and apply for Universal Credit.

As well as caring for his practical needs, the Living Room project gave Mark space to live life in all its fullness. He began to read and write poetry and spent time on craft projects. The volunteers at the project commented on all that Mark brought to the Living Room; his humour and positivity, the way he welcomed and supported other visitors.

By the end of The Living Room project, Mark was in receipt of Universal Credit and had been referred to a temporary accommodation provider.

This is what Mark wants you to know,

“I’ll be back at The Living Room again this year, hopefully as a volunteer.”

When you raise money through the Advent Sleepout Challenge, you are not just providing beds for people. You’re investing in whole person solutions. All of our night shelters are encouraged to provide whole person support so that people who seek shelter are given opportunities to get their lives back on track. They are seen as whole people. So often ignored on the street, people at these shelters are cared for and made to feel that there is always interest in who they are and what they are doing.

So, if you want to be part of growing this work, and having a tangible impact on the lives of people like Mark across the country, take the Advent Sleepout Challenge this year.

NewsMatt Hollidge