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Sponsored sleepout raises thousands for homelessness charity

A team of fundraisers swapped their warm beds for the stone cold floor of Norwich Cathedral’s Cloisters last Friday to raise thousands of pounds for St Martins.

About 45 people took part in Friday night’s A Night In The Cloisters fundraiser, a sponsored sleepout which is part of a weekend of events at the Cathedral aiming to shine a spotlight on the issue of homelessness.

Sleeping in the historic surrounds of the Cloisters of course in no way reflects what life is like on the streets, and the fundraisers heard first-hand about the harsh reality from Joe who has lived experience of sleeping rough, was supported by St Martins and has fortunately now managed to get his life back on track.

The sleepout raised more than £8,000 to help St Martins help more people in need turn their lives around.

The Revd Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care, was one of the event’s organisers. At the end of the sleepout, he said: “A night in the cloisters is nothing compared with the reality that rough sleepers face night after night.

“As the wind started to blow and I heard the rain falling I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the work of St Martins and for the vital work they do on our streets.”

A Night in the Cloisters was part of a special weekend at Norwich Cathedral focusing on homelessness. Several of the agencies and charities that work with homeless people were represented at the event and visitors learnt about the work they do and opportunities to get involved in fundraising and volunteering.

Organisations included St Martins, Samaritans, Mind, The Benjamin Foundation, Norwich Street Aid, Emmaus, King’s Lynn Winter Shelter, Exobyte and The Feed.

Real life stories of homelessness  were told through a ‘living library’, where visitors spent time with people who have been homeless and those who work with homeless people and found out first-hand about their experience.

Local author Robert Ashton spoke about his latest book, Any Spare Change?, which documents his quest to understand the issue of homelessness and how the public can help. Visitors to the event came away with a better understanding of the issues around homelessness and information about how they can best help.

St Martins’ The Knitted House has also returned to the Cathedral, after making a big impact when it was first built in the Cathedral last October to coincide with World Homelessness Day. A visual representation of homelessness, The Knitted House consists of 4,677 scarves, with each scarf representing a person who slept on the streets in the UK last year. One in eight of the scarves are black, indicating the number of people who died on the streets. The Knitted House will remain on display at the Cathedral until February 24.

On Sunday (February 9), Dr Jan Sheldon, CEO of St Martins, gave the address at the morning service at Norwich Cathedral, followed by a community lunch. Her message was simple: homelessness can happen to anyone, people who are homeless need specialist support, people who are homeless need kindness and compassion.

Pictured above: some of the photos of the Homelessness Weekend activities. Sleepout photos by Bill Smith

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