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Roughing it to Support The King's Arms Project

8th March 2010

More than 40 volunteers slept out in Bedford on the night of Friday 26th February to raise money for the homeless.

The group, including John Morris, Head of Housing Services and Mike Milner, Rough Sleepers Co-ordinator from Bedford Borough Council, and Street Outreach Support Workers Becky Ross and Sharon Pole, from the King’s Arms Project, braved the cold in sleeping bags, cardboard boxes and plastic sheeting at Brickhill Lower School playground to help raise more than £10,000 for the Bedford based homelessness charity.
PR Kings Arms Pro. Sleeping Rough

Cllr Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Homelessness said: “I applaud everyone who slept rough on this well organised sleep out. It was a challenge for them and I'm pleased they did so well in terms of raising awareness on this subject. Although numbers of those sleeping rough in Bedford has dropped this year, we will continue to work tirelessly on ways to reduce the number of people who end up sleeping rough, and provide the necessary support to those who find themselves in this tragic situation.”

In a typical year the King’s Arms Project supports some 300 homeless people some of whom are entrenched rough sleepers.  One of the coldest winters in the past 30 years makes life very uncomfortable if you do not have a roof over your head or a bed to sleep in.

John Morris mentioned that he has learned a tough lesson about life on the streets – albeit in the safe environment of a school playground and then for only a single night.  While he was well kitted out with wet-weather gear plus a hot water bottle, hand warmers and a sleeping bag, he still got a little taste of what it was like to sleep rough.

John said: “Spending a night out on cold and wet concrete playground when it's raining for hours on end with temperatures close to freezing will be an experience that I will not forget in a hurry. It brought us all down to one level and let us realise how fortunate we all are compared to real rough sleepers who don’t have a roof over their head for sometimes weeks or months on end”.

For Mike Milner, it is the fifth year that he has taken part in the Sleep Out and this year it was a family affair as he was joined by his wife Jennifer.

Mike said: "Some people think that homeless people should, 'get off your backside’, ‘go get a job', all that type of stuff. It is not quite that simple as many have multiple and complex needs. When I actually listen to rough sleepers and hear the stories of why they are homeless, you just take a different perspective. Mental illness, depression, relationship breakdown, drug and alcohol problems, broken homes, abusive parents or partners are all reasons people end up on the streets. We can easily take for granted how privileged we all are, to live the way we do.  My job is about helping to get entrenched rough sleepers off the streets and provide opportunities for them to experience some kind of normality again in their lives.’’

John Morris added:  "Coming from a nice, warm comfy bed, in a cosy house with 12 inches of loft insulation, cavity wall insulation with an electric blanket on standby for those very cold nights, it did come as a bit of a shock when at 3am, I rolled off my mat into a puddle of rain water. I was hoping to stay dry all night as I had the relative luxury of cardboard boxes, a survival bag and plastic sheeting - how wrong I was! It certainly was a sobering reminder of the genuine hardships that real rough sleepers can suffer night after night’’.

Information: If you would like to sponsor Mike or John, please send an email to: mikemilner@bedford.gov.uk  inserting the words 'sponsored sleep-out' in the subject box and stating how much you would like to pledge.  To donate online go to:  www.kingsarms.org/sleepout2010 and click on 'support us'.

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