Adie and Robert were among 120 fundraisers taking part in the annual St Albans Sleepout at Oaklands College. Those taking part were invited to sleep outside for the night on a bed of cardboard to experience what life is like for some of the charities’ service users, whilst raising vital funds for the organisations involved.
Youth Groups, local businesses and members of the community all took part in the event organised by Herts Young Homeless. The Sleepout was also attended by the Hertfordshire High Sheriff, Sally Burton, Daisy Cooper MP and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of St Albans. Live music and art workshops were organised and run by St Albans Arts, and a free breakfast provided by Watford Rapid Relief Team.
Adie said: “It was an eye-opening event for those who have never experienced street homelessness. It was humbling to see so many participating to raise awareness about the real struggles faced by so many, who have to spend another night on the streets.”
During the pre-sleepout communal activities, companion Adie read out a moving poem focusing on the perception of homelessness entitled, ‘But for the Grace of God Go I’, written by David Whalen (see full poem below).
Our Chief Executive, Duncan Lewis said: “Emmaus Hertfordshire was delighted to be part of the St Albans Sleepout and we were especially pleased and proud that two of our formerly homeless companions were able to represent us on the night.
“Huge congratulations to everyone who took part, making the event such a success and raising so much money to help a range of organisations in their ongoing efforts to end homelessness. Please also spare a thought for all those people around the UK for whom going home after a night of sleeping rough isn’t an option.”
Started by the Abbey and Diocese in the 1990’s, the sleepout has raised hundreds of thousands for Hertfordshire homeless charities, and this year is no exception. Emmaus Hertfordshire was one of five other local charities supporting vulnerable people; Centre 33, Herts Young Homeless (hyh), Open Door and The Living Room.
As well as representatives from local charities, residents and local groups were invited to take part in the fundraising event, including friends and family, work colleagues, Scouts, Guides, Beavers and Brownies.
Those who could not attend Oaklands College in person could opt instead to raise money by holding a ‘virtual Sleepout’ by pitching a tent in their garden, making a bed out of cardboard, or even building a den, away from the comfort of their bed. All to raise money and support homeless people in Hertfordshire!
Here is the poem read to the gathering by Adie:
‘But for the Grace of God Go I’, written by David Whalen:
…There, but for the grace of God go I…
Is a thought I oft used to think
As I cast a hasty, judgmental eye
Roundabout the coffee shop
And o’er the brim of my morning drink
…I used to judge those so-called ‘sorry souls
And ascribe to them sad histories
In blissful ignorance that
Some were likely looking back
And doing the same to me
…Yet with a superior sense of satisfaction
Would I sip my McDonald’s morning brew
Until some hapless soul would draw my attraction
Ah yes…this sorry soul will do
…I would focus in and build upon
My narrative about this sorry soul
Whose life seemed sad and almost gone
Down into life’s rabbit hole
…Oh the trials and ordeals
That this man must daily feel
The sting of outrageous misfortune
That Fate of late has shared with him
More than his fair portion
…Alas my coffee is quaffed
My imaginative narrative done
I’ll likely see this man (my star) no more
And I wonder who the morrow’s
Protagonist will be
As I walk out through the door
…Tomorrow will dawn a brand new day
I’ll sip my Senior brew and sigh
Select a new star for my newest play
(I think I shall title this one like all the others)
…”There but for the grace of God go I…”