For the past few years, the charity LandAid has asked the property industry to spend one night outside to help end youth homelessness. This year, four members of our Manchester studio joined more than 800 property professionals across the country for the charity’s annual SleepOut, braving one night outside to understand the harsh realities faced by a growing number of young people, every night.
Here, architect Gemma Copp, shares her personal motivation for taking part.
What motivated you to sign up for this year's SleepOut?
Between the ages of 16-18, LandAid played a fundamental role in my life - they prevented me from becoming homeless and set me on the path to university and becoming an architect.
Through them, I received access to a support worker who taught me how to use a washing machine, budget my finances and cook healthy, nutritious meals. They also drove me to university open days, helped me prepare for interviews, proofread my personal statement, and guided my A-level exam revision - all while mediating my relationship with my family.
How was your experience of the night?
We slept at the Mayfield Depot under one of the platform arches. We chose this spot because it blocked out most of the light and gave a little bit of privacy and enclosure. We later learnt, however, it’s the only arch in the depot alleged to be haunted!
This year’s SleepOut was the first ‘in-person’ event after the pandemic so to mark the occasion, the night began with some speeches and a ‘build your own bed’ competition. We chose to construct a ‘Buttress’ castle wall to create some added privacy, complete with a flag made out of rolled newspaper, bunting from bin bags, and a draw bridge to hang over the dirty puddle outside the arch.
The night, however, was grim. We were barely able to sleep with the cold coming up from the depot’s hard, concrete floor. The noise of others walking past also kept us awake.
Reflecting on the experience what did you take away from it?
I was immensely grateful the next day and the weekend after, knowing I could pack up my things and go home to a bed without the pressure of considering where I'd sleep the next night. I felt incredibly privileged, and it was a humbling reminder of how different life is for homeless young people.
How has it changed how you think about youth homelessness?
If anything, the experience had made me want to help more. I’m motivated by the knowledge that our donations to LandAid could help many others achieve their dream career and life goals, despite difficult living arrangements, struggles with mental health and family relationships.
To date, the team have raised £2,400, contributing to the £42,100 raised in total for Manchester and the North West region and £464,000 across England. This equates to four and a half years of living accommodation for the 121,000 youths who register themselves as homeless each year. If you’d like to add to their fundraising, you can donate here.