You can too!


Jacqueline Brown, Church Warden at the Parish of Ringwood with Ellingham & Harbridge.

So, there’s this assumption that I’m not the kind of person who could camp, never mind sleep out for a night, people assume I would be very uncomfortable and unhappy with that. Well, I’m going to prove them wrong!

Jacqueline Brown, Church Warden at the Parish of Ringwood with Ellingham & HarbridgeI am a part of the church in the Parish of Ringwood with Ellingham & Harbridge and our church has taken part in the Advent Sleepout Challenge for every year that it has been running, but I’ve never slept out, just helped from the side lines. Well, this year I’m going to sleep out – and hope to raise £1000. If I’m going to do it I might as well go all out!

Although this is all a bit of harmless fun and I’m enjoying proving everyone wrong, I’m really doing this because of what I see every day in our Parish. We have always had the odd homeless man sleeping in our church yard over the years; sometimes for a long period, sometimes for a short period. Since May, however, we have had a group that varies between 6 and 8 men sleeping rough in the parish, some of them in the Parish Church porch.

As we have come to know these men and worked through local systems and authorities, we have seen that the safety net is full of very large holes and many people who are experiencing homelessness receive little or no help from statutory bodies. That’s where churches and charities step in. The work of night shelters that are supported by CUF are vital for men like those sleeping rough in our parish.

Each person who experiences homelessness has a different set of needs; they all have different issues and problems that have led them to being without a home in the first place. This means solutions need to be tailored and that is hard for the State to achieve. At our church we have learnt from our experience with Church Urban Fund that their night shelters provide this tailored support; trained volunteers work with night shelter guests and help them get back on track.

So, I will be sleeping out this year because I know that the money I raise will be used to provide real and lasting help to the people we see on our streets. But that’s not all. When I share my fundraising page on Facebook and send it to my friends, it means that people who aren’t Christian hear about this work. Through this they learn that we put the Christian faith into action; this is what it means to be Christian, this is what it can look like.

So, whether you’re a reluctant camper like myself or a wannabe Bear Grylls, you should take the Sleepout Challenge this Advent. If I can do it, you can too!

NewsMatt Hollidge