6 November 2018
On Saturday 3 November, three Lower Sixth and eleven Upper Sixth boys, accompanied by the Head Master, Deputy Head Pastoral, and Charities Coordinator, took part in a Sleep Out to show solidarity with the homeless of Reading. Our aim was to raise awareness of the situation of people who have no homes to go to, and also to raise money for Launchpad, a local charity which provides housing and support for them. Launchpad is (along with the British Lung Foundation) one of the school’s nominated charities for this year.
We met at 8pm, and took our sleeping bags and the motley collection of cardboard boxes that we had managed to save from the recycling around the school up to near the cricket pavilion. We first went to Mass, and Fr Macnab gave a moving homily to focus our thoughts and prayers towards the nature of homelessness and what we were undertaking. After the service, Mr Fogg offered some important reflections on what we were doing, reminding us all that we were in no way experiencing homelessness, but only that we might through this help develop our own awareness and compassion, as well as that of others. Back at the pavilion, Mr Fogg built a fire, and we were grateful for visitors who brought us donations of food and drink, while the boys threw a ball around in the dark, told endless bad jokes, and sang along to some classic songs of the nineties and noughties, much to the approval of their teachers.
However, as midnight approached, everything became darker, colder, and a lot less fun. We all bedded down in our sleeping bags around the pavilion, amazed at the difference a sheet of cardboard made, but still chilly and uncomfortable. Some, not least the Head Master, seemed to be able to fall asleep at once, in spite of the discomfort; others lay uncomfortably, waiting for the hours to pass, and thinking how fortunate we were at least to be safe and to know that we only had to endure until 7am.
At 5.30am, a downpour provided a rude awakening; some had positioned themselves strategically under benches or behind cars, but others quickly found that their sleeping bags were not quite as waterproof as advertised. We gathered as best we could under the balcony of the pavilion, most giving up on the idea of sleep and resigning themselves to watching the sun rise through the cloud and rain. Finally, when the showers stopped, we cleared away our cardboard, rolled up our soggy sleeping bags, and returned to school for welcome bacon rolls and hot coffee.
We all knew that what we experienced was nothing like homelessness. We were safe; our sleeping bags were sound and we all had our thermals on; people were generous in bringing us food and drink, and we had a fire to keep us warm; most of all, we knew that come the morning the Ref would make us breakfast and we would all be able to have a shower or go back to bed in our own rooms. However, that one night of cold uncomfortable sleeping did help us realize just slightly more what it might feel like to be in the position of having to spend the night on the streets, or not have a safe warm place to go back to. All of us will think differently about the people we see in sleeping bags on Reading pavements. We had a lot of time to think and talk about how becoming homeless can happen to anyone, and how we should do everything in our power to help those in need and take steps to eradicate homelessness from our society.
Our JustGiving page has received £1400 of donations at the time of writing, and we are hugely grateful to all our supporters.