On the cold night of Friday 3rd November 2017, approximately 60 volunteers chose to sleep out at the Bromley Parish Church to raise awareness and funds for homelessness.

The volunteers joined forces to support ‘The Bromley Homeless Shelter’, a project run by the ‘Churches Together in Central Bromley’ and chosen by Bromley Mayor Kathy Bance, as one of this year’s Bromley mayoral charity. The Bromley Homeless Shelter provides 12 guests (at a time) with Night Shelter, dinner and breakfast during the coldest months of the year, also helping their guests all year round, to turn their life around.

Armed with sleeping bags, tents and cardboard boxes, volunteers arrived at 7:30 p.m. Deputy Mayor, Councillor Kevin Brooks, who was also there for the Sleep Out, emphasized, 'There is much work to be done and the Mayoral Team will continue fundraising events until next May.'

Another volunteer, Candice Roshier, accompanied by 13 years old twins Nikhil and Roshann, said, ‘I’m extremely anxious to do the Sleep Out but my boys are excited.’

The evening started with live music by volunteers from ‘Change, Grow, Live’ accompanying a hot meal provided by Tamasha Indian Restaurant and Havet Turkish Restaurant.

Judy Watchman, a nurse from CGL, explained that her work involves improving the lives of drug and alcohol addicts who can become permanently housed after their programme and that they do liaise with ‘Bromley Homeless Shelter’ to help people.

Bromley’s MP, Bob Neill, also attended the dinner to support the Sleep Out and to offer solidarity. ‘This problem is not recognised enough,’ he stressed, ‘It is an important national campaign.’

Fabienne Brazzill, volunteer organiser of laundry clean for ‘Bromley Homeless Shelter’ and participant of the Sleep Out for 3 years said, ‘Last winter, we helped 30 homeless people from a mixture of backgrounds, some who were homeless due to loss of jobs, substance abuse and from family dispute.'

After a service, at 10:30 p.m., volunteers bedded down outside ready for the long night ahead, with two volunteers at hand for hot drinks. Breakfast was available for all in the morning.

Councillor Kevin Brooks stated, ‘Despite it being cold and raining, it was a good experience and made me really appreciate the hardship for those who have to sleep out every night. I think that all the volunteers felt it was a valuable experience. It was at times uncomfortable and getting quality sleep was far from easy but it meant that to a certain extent we could empathise with those vulnerable people who are in that situation.’He added, ‘I gained further knowledge as to the working of Bromley Homeless Shelter and its importance in a society where a lack of affordable and social housing is an increasing problem.’

Homelessness is clearly a pressing issue in Bromley and in the face of a bitterly cold winter, it is more serious than ever. Donations can still be made for the event until the 31st December on the Bromley Homeless Shelter website, to help tackle homelessness.

Zahra D'Souza

Sydenham High School