For the past three years, the charity LandAid has asked the property industry to spend one night outside to help end youth homelessness. This year, Associate Ben Tabiner was one of more than 600 property professionals across the country to take part in the SleepOut, braving one night outside to understand the harsh realities faced by a growing number of young people, every night.
Here, he reflects on his night outdoors and why young people need our help now more than ever.
I signed up to the sleepout on the same day we exchanged on a new house. I felt fortunate to be in that position and also acutely aware of how different and difficult life can be for some.
During the pandemic, youth homelessness has risen by 50%. The quieter streets of our cities have made the situation all the more visible and the lives of homeless people even harder.
After signing up, a few people shared with me their personal experiences of homeless. While it was inspiring to hear their stories, they also offered a stark reminder of how little we talk about homelessness in our society. We need to do more to raise awareness that homelessness can affect anyone – perhaps even someone you know.
The night began with a series of virtual speeches and presentations delivered by LandAid, detailing exactly how the fund raised from the sleep out would support the charity’s work in helping end youth homelessness.
It was a wet start but messages from friends and fellow fundraisers provided further encouragement but when they waned, the cold night started to bite so I bedded down in a sleeping bag on some garden furniture with a clear view of the stars.
After some broken sleep, I woke to the sounds of the birds and a lightening sky. I thought, "nearly there, that wasn’t so bad" but it was only 3:45am then it started to rain again.
I had expected to be cold, tired and hungry but I but was surprised by how lonely I also felt. Rather than lie in the rain, I decided to go for a walk to try and lift my spirits and pass the last couple of hours.
I returned to the garden for a final celebratory Zoom call but it didn’t work and by now the rain was really heavy. I was relieved when I could finally get indoors and warm up with a hot coffee and a breakfast butty.
Although my short experience was over, I was struck that this was a daily and nightly reality for so many. The thought was overwhelming and made me feel quite emotional. I hadn’t anticipated this having such a profound impact on me personally. I think the enforced isolation of this year’s event also made the experience more akin to reality and more impactful for it.
The generosity of friends and colleagues has been amazing and together we have contributed to the £325,000 raised by this year’s event, which will go toward supplying young homeless people in our city with safe warm beds, meals and crucial mental health support.
If you would to donate to Ben's page to help end youth homelessness you can do so here.