A journey through homelessness


Robert is a part of the Granborough Crew and this year they went on a little journey through the homeless experience. The Granborough crew are a wonderful group of young people from a village in Buckinghamshire and Robert is the youth group leader. This is what he had to tell us.

Set the scene for us, what was your Sleepout Challenge like?

So, a group of ten youngsters and four adults got together to sleep out in an old wooden barn on the farm where I live. It felt like a good way to replicate the Nativity story and after rain wiped away the two shelters we built outside, I’m glad that we all decided to sleep in the barn!

We’ve heard that you took the young people through a little bit of the journey that a homeless person might face. Could you tell us about that?

Once we’d finished building our shelters we went down to the nearby town and together we assessed various doorways, benches, and dark corners and tried to determine the various merits of each so that we could decide which one of those we’d rather sleep in.

Then we made a plan to get ourselves off the streets. As the local one-stop was still open and advertising for staff, we approached the bewildered but very helpful manager for a job. Sadly, we soon discovered that being “homeless” meant that we couldn’t even download an application form and, even if we could, we had no home address to use and would find it hard to clean ourselves up for an interview.

What a great idea! We’ve not heard of anyone doing that before. Do you think the young people appreciated the experience?

I think so. It gave them an opportunity to put themselves into the shoes of somebody who doesn’t have a home. Gave them a chance to see that it’s not just about not having warmth, it’s about being exposed as you sleep in dark streets, it’s about a sense of hopelessness as you struggle to get yourself into a job when the odds are stacked against you.

The exercise only demonstrated a little of the problems that a person on the streets might face, but hopefully it was a helpful insight.

That’s a good point. So, what did you get up to when you got back to the barn?

Well, we heated ourselves some hot chocolate and soup on small gas stoves before lights out in the cold barn arrived at just gone midnight. Everyone tried to sleep as best they could. It sounds a little bleak, but everyone had a really good time.

Our youngest three are eleven years old. I was so impressed with their mature attitude to the whole exercise.

Do you have any other reflections from the experience?

Just to say that I was really startled by the response from everyone that we came across through the Challenge. It is obviously a cause that strikes a chord. We’re really proud that our little effort has raised so much awareness of the issue in our local area; the local paper has even run an article on us!

NewsMatt Hollidge