Last year, on World Homeless Day, SCT hosted a Sleep Out to raise money for the local homeless community, and to raise awareness of the hardships facing rough sleepers as winter approaches. Around 30 people slept outside in Shoreditch, raising over £8,000 to support people in East London. Stanley was among them, and this year he is reflecting on the event last October.

Homelessness is a multifaceted issue with wider social considerations, including mental health and social inequality.

In 2019, I spent a night sleeping rough on the streets of London as part of SCT’s Sleep Out initiative. The purpose was to raise awareness, but the experience also highlighted a different perspective on the homelessness issue – one that is fundamentally driven by mental health issues and the lack of inclusiveness of our cities.

The COVID pandemic has exacerbated the homelessness situation, whilst causing challenges for the organisations that support them. It is now (more than ever) important to understand how we can drive long-term positive social change in the cities we work and live – to create truly inclusive communities that benefit the less fortunate. Sustainable cities for future generations.

My Sleep Out Experience

The sleeping conditions were expectedly difficult; exposure to a combination of streetlights, noise, and cold weather make it physically uncomfortable. However, it was the mental aspect that was particularly challenging – the heightened sense of awareness and lack of safety. Throughout the night I heard first-hand stories from homeless people, learning how severe mental health issues were prevalent amongst the homeless community. These were intensified by feelings of being ‘invisible’ and ‘unwanted’ in a busy modern-day society. On the other hand, it was inspiring to hear stories of recovery. A shower and change of clothes ended my homelessness experience, but the physical and mental ordeal continues for many others.

Shared Social Responsibility

As we push for greater awareness of mental wellbeing in our workplaces and lives, our shared experience of mental health brings us closer to understanding the mental wellbeing of the homeless. The new norm brought on by COVID equally also offers an opportunity to embrace a more empathetic social approach in tackling homelessness.

Whilst we cannot participate this year, I hope to join future SCT Sleep Out events. I encourage others to join or share their reflections.

Stanley Kwong

In the absence of a Sleep Out in 2020, click here for other ways you can support our work this winter.