A group of friends who found out how it feels to be homeless by spending a night sleeping rough in a cold and dark city car park are planning to do it all over again on November 30.
Tara Hewitt-Gates, Brad Hastewell, and Amanda Astley, of Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG), raised £1,000 when they joined hundreds of other people supporting the St Basil's annual Sleep Out last year.
They sheltered under cardboard and plastic bags overnight in the charity's car park in Digbeth to raise funds to support young people as they try to set up new homes for themselves. The following morning they were able to go home to a hot bath, a meal and a warm bed, unlike many young people who endure endless nights sleeping rough.
The friends were supported by family and colleagues at PPDG offices across Birmingham and Solihull who donated funds for the cause. This year they will be joined at the Sleep Out by colleague Dan Hodgetts.
Dan said: "My colleagues have persuaded me to join them for the St Basil's annual Sleep Out and I'm looking forward to it with some trepidation. I hope to get just a small taste of what so many homeless people have to suffer night after night and would encourage more people to either take part or support those that do."
Amanda, a buyer at PPDG, said: "It wasn't much fun last year. We had torrential rain all night and at one point the organisers actually asked if we wanted to go inside. Our shelter collapsed, we got soaked and poor Brad had to sleep outside. We were freezing and pretty miserable. We rigged up a 'front room' out of polythene and played cards until they got soaked as well.
"The thing is, it's not supposed to be a walk in the park. I doubt if people who really have to sleep rough have a great time so I like to think that we experienced just a fraction of what they go through every night. It was quite a sobering experience."
Tara, a personal development coach, said: "We decided to participate because we feel it is a very worthwhile cause as many of our clients have been homeless at some stage and have been through St Basil's' doors in the past. There are a lot of homeless people in Birmingham, especially the younger generation. Without charities like St Basil's to keep them off the streets these people would have nowhere to go for shelter."
Ambassador Gail's doing her bit for St Basil's
TV and radio presenter Gail Porter, a new ambassador of St Basil's, intends to join the hundreds of people preparing for the annual sleep out.
The charity that helps young people facing homelessness in the region is predicting that the fund-raiser on November 30 will be the biggest yet with record numbers of people signing up.
Steve Rainbow, organiser of the event, said: "The take up this year has been amazing and we have been genuinely surprised by the enthusiasm of the city. So far over 350 people have signed up to Sleep Out in Digbeth with 500 people taking part in smaller satellite Sleep Outs across the city.
"With so many participants, we look set to smash last year's total of over £40,000 which helped over 4,000 young people who ask for help from St Basil's each year."
Ms Porter said: "People need to be made more aware of the vital job St Basil's is doing with young people, so that the charity can continue its crucial work in Birmingham. There is no cardboard city in Birmingham, which we see in so many other UK cities. The young people who work with St Basil's are inspirational, ambitious young people and they are helping to dispel the negative stereotype of homelessness for good."
She is supporting this year's Christmas Star Appeal in an effort to raise £35,000, which is the cost of providing accommodation services to 350 young people over Christmas and December, and is also going the 'extra mile' by running the London Marathon for St Basil's next year.
For those who are unable to attend a Sleep Out, the charity is asking people to pledge their support for St Basil's on the night and arrange a Sleep In.
For more information and donations see www.stBasil's.org.uk, and look for Big Sleep Out, or call Mr Rainbow on 0121 772 2483. To donate, call 0121 772 9614 or 0121 772 9614.