Semi-retired charity advisor Cathy Williams has raised over £5000 for Julian House to help people experiencing homelessness during the COVID pandemic. Cathy, a former Funding Advisor for Comic Relief, Mind and Homeless Link set herself the challenge of sleeping outside for seven nights in her paddock during November and December 2020 to raise much needed funds and awareness for people forced to sleep out every night.
Speaking about sleeping outside, she said: “Although I was in a tent in a field only about a hundred metres from my house, walking out there into a pitch black night, often in rain and wind was quite scary. Leaving my partner and our dogs felt harder and harder. For the first three nights I couldn’t even see the sky because there was a thick chill fog covering everything. I was lucky that I was able to make sure I was warm enough but it was still not a comfortable experience and each night it was more of a wrench to go out there.”
Despite the struggle, Cathy persevered and in doing so smashed her £700 target to raise £5,020 thanks to the generosity of her friends and family. She added: “I feel terribly lucky to have a warm house, food on the table and a comfy bed to sleep in every night. It’s a basic human need to feel secure and the thought of being on the street exposed to the elements and all sorts of dangers is awful. I know many homeless people have found themselves there through no fault of their own. It can be a quick and catastrophic slide down the slippery slope of losing your partner and/or job, then having nowhere to stay and no income, then your friends getting fed up of having you on their sofa.”
Speaking about her experiences, Cathy said: “There was a very strong psychological element to the experience that I hadn’t anticipated which was about being alone in the dark with no one around me. It brought home to me what a lonely experience it must be to be homeless and an understanding of how easy it would be to turn to drink and other ways of blotting it all out if I were really out on the streets. The impact of being under this strain day after day must really take a huge toll on your wellbeing and mental health. By the end of the week I felt quite exhausted too as being out in the elements means you really take a physical battering and it also used a lot of emotional energy. I learned a lot about how much I rely on others for companionship and support and how necessary it is to wellbeing to feel safe and secure. These are things totally lacking when you have no home and no friends or family around you. I felt really sad for homeless people and angry that we still have so many people in the UK without safe homes. The horror of all of this is really compounded during the pandemic.”
Senior Community and Events Fundraiser Jessica Gay said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to Cathy. She has done an incredible job in not only raising vital funds that’ll help us support vulnerable men and women who are experiencing homelessness at this moment, but also in raising that much important awareness about the plight of rough sleeping. Cathy’s experiences and reflections are poignant and bring into focus how having a home is such a basic but essential need.
For the people we support, the pandemic has evoked further feelings of isolation and desolation. On top of this, the plunging winter temperatures have posed a threat to their lives. Due to funds raised by supporters like Cathy, we’ve been able to provide extra bed spaces since mid-November so that no one has to sleep rough during the coldest months of the year. We are continuing our essential support work virtually to ensure we provide that essential lifeline to the 80 plus men and women in our homelessness services in Bath. Cathy’s support will help us continue our life saving services at a time when they are needed most.”
Supporters are being encouraged to follow Cathy’s example and sign up to the charity’s Big Bath Sleep-Out on Friday 5th March. Participants are sleeping out for one night in their gardens or a home to help raise vital funds and awareness for men and women forced to sleep out every night. Click here to find out more and to sign up.