The stars came out at the Eden Project last night as 100 fundraisers bedded down on hard ground to help homeless people.
Under clear skies in near-freezing temperatures, the sixth annual Sleep Out beside the Biomes will raise thousands of pounds for two South West homelessness charities, St Petrocs and the Amber Foundation.
Homeless men and women shared heart-rending and inspirational stories with a wide variety of people including school pupils, probation officers, medical staff, lawyers and artists.
One of the most gripping accounts came from Mimi Beard, who told how at the age of 16 she spent nights sleeping rough on a bench and struggled to survive after having to leave the family home in West Cornwall.
Mimi turned her life around and now at the age of 21 works as a trainee tax accountant. She said: “These events and organisations help so many people. No-one deserves to be homeless. The work that you guys do – I can’t thank you enough.”
Last year’s Sleep Out at Eden raised around £20,000 for the two charities and organisers hope that this year’s event will at least match that sum.
Lois Wild of the St Petrocs communications team said that money raised will have a big benefit in the coming cold months. At the charity’s winter night shelter in Truro, £28 buys a bed space for one person for one night.
Lois said: “Eighty–nine people used our night shelters last year. Our services are being used more and more every year and there are more people needing help. We are working to end street homelessness and genuinely, with the help of Eden and all the people here tonight, we can make a real difference. This is an immensely powerful event.”
Entertainment was provided by top Cornwall-based singer-songwriter Suzie Mac, a great supporter of the homelessness charities, who performed a soulful set to an appreciative audience in the glow of the campfire. In a first for the event, St Petrocs supporter Helen Trevaskis drew scenes of the Sleep Out as an artistic record of the night.
Eden chefs ensured no-one went hungry by providing bowls of stew. They also led homemade pizza-making sessions in the warmth of the Eden Kitchen.
Among the companies and organisations represented were a team of nine from Watson-Marlow of Falmouth, who for the second year running expect to raise more than £2,000 between them. Other groups of people included the National Probation Service’s Plymouth Office, Trinity School in Teignmouth, Devon, Carnon Downs Surgery, Cornwall, Wild West PR agency, and Cornwall Junior Lawyers from Coodes and Earl and Crocker.
Dan James, Eden Project Development Director, said: “Our sixth Sleep Out was a special one. We had an amazing mix of people here and heard some unique, inspiring stories. Eden is proud to support the two charities and we salute the fundraisers who endured a bitterly cold night to help people less fortunate than themselves. Thanks also to everyone who has supported the charities through their sponsorship.”
Sleep Out is a nationwide event organised by the End Youth Homelessness (EYH), a national collaboration of grassroots charities and companies that provides vital support to homeless young people across the UK.
There was various media coverage of the event – listen to St Petrocs residents, staff and supporters live on BBC Radio Cornwall Breakfast Show, from 1hour 22mins (available until 6th December).