How does it feel to be homeless?
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To help raise awareness of homelessness, three Bromford colleagues braved the cold and were left physically and emotionally drained by spending just one night on the streets.
Here, senior support worker, Terri Boffin describes how she, Emma Beard and Bev Deeming found the experience.
“Bedding down for the night we were feeling quite excited and were in really high spirits. We had chosen a shop doorway elevated by some steps to give us a vantage point as we knew there would be people in the centre on a night out who could possibly cause us problems and we would want to see them coming. We had armed ourselves with attack alarms and a plan for our safety but until we were sitting there in the dark all alone I really don’t think we’d truly comprehended our vulnerability.
“By 10.30pm we were cold and hungry. We quickly realised how lonely an existence this was. During the day places like the local library can be a haven, somewhere to feel safe and warm but once closed, you’re left out in the cold - literally. It was going to be a very long night!
“It was still relatively early but already we felt like the night was never going to end. I’m finding it hard to describe, but we couldn’t even begin to imagine how it must feel if this is your life - we were beginning to feel very emotional. We were very uncomfortable, the hard floor was stone cold and despite our layers and sleeping bags, our backs
were really hurting. We decide against lying down, we felt vulnerable enough without putting ourselves at more risk.
“Cold to the bone, we needed to get our circulation going so decided to go for a walk. It took a lot of effort to pack what little belongings we had away as we were already feeling unmotivated and pretty low. We realised that the doorway had been sheltering us from the wind which was freezing and we couldn’t wait to get back but were also desperate for the loo. Luckily, a local pub allowed us to use their facilities (I wonder if they are always so accommodating).
“Our spirits were extremely low when we bedded back down at around 2.30am. We were all really hungry and the cold, deprived of sleep, our backs and legs were aching and we were feeling so many emotions. We couldn’t believe just how little time it had taken to make us feel this desolate; what if this was your life?
“How could you possibly motivate yourself to find somewhere to live, let alone find a job? We could barely keep a conversation going never mind if we had to find the will to improve our lives. As well as being cold and uncomfortable, we didn’t dare sleep as we feared for our safety. We now had a real understanding of why people may turn to drink and drugs just to get through the night.
“What made us feel so low and abandoned was how little notice people took of us; it was so hurtful. Some side glanced, some didn’t bother to look, some even laughed at us. There were a handful who did stop, wanting to know why we were there. They asked if we were OK, and if we needed anything - we could have cried. That hand of help and someone who cared was overwhelming, even to us. Someone even came back in the early hours of the morning to check that we were OK but is this the norm?
“We were so grateful when our experience was over. It’s not something that any of us would like to relive anytime soon. Our night on the streets had brought the words ‘rough sleeper’ and ‘homeless’ to life. Luckily for us, we could go home to bed but what about those who haven’t got that choice. Whose ‘home’ is the street?
“The next day was an emotional one, we had mixed feelings of our experiences and felt very grateful for what we have. The experience has given us all more determination to do everything that we can through our support services and our volunteering at the Night Shelters to help people this winter.”
(Sunny Umbrella photograph courtesy of davco9200)