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Young Co-operative sleeps out to raise awareness of homelessness

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The Young Co-operative at Fulston Manor School in Kent gave up an afternoon and whole night of their Easter Holiday visiting a homeless shelter as well as spending a night outdoors to raise awareness of homelessness. Young Co-operatives co-ordinator Sarah Palmer reports on their experience:

Five Fulston Manor students visited The Quays in Sittingbourne and interviewed a panel of homeless people who are presently staying at The Quays. The Quays is a charity run organisation which provides a roof over the heads of some of our most needy community members for up to two years. During their time at The Quays, they are taught social and practical skills together with making them feel better about themselves.

Fulston Manor Young Co-operative with residents of homeless shelter

Ryan, Billy, Robert, Ben and Jack asked very relevant questions of the homeless people, who were honest with their answers and seriously made all of us think twice about the people living on the streets. The majority of people who sleep rough do so due to circumstances in their lives such as deaths in the family, businesses going bust, family problems and, of course, drink and drugs. Having spent about an hour and a half chatting with these people, our students had changed their opinions of homeless people. Billy Brandon said: “I now know that not every homeless person is dangerous and that it is not always their fault that they are sleeping rough. We also learnt that loneliness was one of the hardest emotions to deal with when living on the street.”

Tiegan, one of the female homeless people said that what they really need at The Quays is a stock of food for cupboards and old clothes, especially shoes. When clients turn up at the doors of The Quays they only own the clothes they are standing in. We are, therefore, going to write to parents asking them to donate food and clothes so that we can take them down to the staff at The Quays to be distributed.

Later on that evening we gathered at Fulston Manor School, together with the majority of the Young Co-operatives Group, and bedded down for the night outside The Millennium Hall. We had only sleeping bags and cardboard boxes to keep us warm. We wanted to get a taster for how it must feel to sleep rough. We are the lucky ones in as much as we have warm beds and families to love us when we get home and we were only spending the one night outside!

We made a video diary throughout the night which should be available to show during house assemblies shortly. All the students found the experience thought provoking and their perceptions of homeless people were changed, probably forever.