Last night I joined a group of other Scottish business leaders in Charlotte Square to take part in Social Bite's CEO Sleepout with the aim of raising funds for Scotland's most vulnerable people. We spent the night outside from 7pm-7am in sleeping bags. Here's how the night unfolded.
Arriving a bit late, it's a a relatively warm night for a sleep out in December: currently 9 degrees. I'm well fed from our Board Christmas lunch, which is more than most homeless people will have had, so I'm hoping hunger won't be an issue. The George Street light show is belting out songs from Bollywood - all set!
Check in complete and security passed (not just anybody is allowed to spend the night in Charlotte Square) and onto the marquee to pick up my supplies and then off to find my spot for the night.
Most people seem to have gone for around the base of trees, not sure why - but it does feel weird just lying down in the middle of nowhere, so I head to the far end of the square where there's a little rise - and splendid views of George Street and the castle.
Started chatting to my neighbour for the night - a really nice guy, he's CEO of ESPC and five minutes later I get my first call from Doug and Alan. Bless them. They wanted to check I was ok and Doug offered to bring me food or blankets at any time of the night.
Next are the welcome speeches - what a great impact Social Bite is making. They show us the pop-up houses for homeless people they’ve secured land for near Granton. Awesome concept and they need £500k to build them all … 300 people here tonight at £1,000 each and they’re more than half way there! People can be so good – the biggest sponsorship is £16,000!
A quick check into the Just Giving site and we're at £950, almost all from the Nucleus family. Thankyou to all of you for being so caring and generous. And thank you to Jenna, Amy and Alan for organising this all.
12.30am and still trying to get comfortable in my two sleeping bags and emergency plastic sack. The ground is starting to feel hard and I wonder why Doug hasn’t phoned to check on me ?
1.05am I realise the bars are closing by now, which means Alan Mooney might be passing by soon. Or anyone still in the Gillie Dhu from last Friday's Christmas party.
1.20am and I realise I'm really hungry - I know it's cheating but thankfully I have a Herbskise express bar.
1.30am and it really feels like time to turn in. I promised myself if I couldn't sleep by now I'd open my emails and finish my ICAAP pillar 2 scenarios for Donna-Louise - not going to happen!
1.45am Did you know homeless people have a life expectancy of 45 years (men) and 43 (women)? 33% have two or fewer meals per day, are 13 times more likely to suffer from violence…
Some guy five bags down is snoring his head off!
2.25am Right, time to get some sleep now. Gloves on, beanie on…
2.30am One glove on, can’t find the other one. Decision time – forget about it or get out of the sleeping bag and sack, look for it and get back in? (15 more minutes… and do the ICAAP). Forget about it wins…
3.10am Starting to rain again. I realise my plastic sack is about 5.5 feet tall so part of me is going to get a bit wet. Snorer still going strong - I might need to move to the other side of the square.
3.30am This sleeping bag is comfortable enough, my feet are a bit cold but it's not too bad - but it's really hard to fall asleep with all the light and sounds of the city. Cars and bikes going by, people laughing, shouting, sirens... maybe you could get used to it but I need it to be quieter. And darker. And being awake is making me really hungry.
4.45am The square is quiet (apart from the snorer) but the city is starting to get going again for the new day.
6.35am Time to start wrapping up. Looking back on the night, the cold was definitely not a factor at all, but could have been had it been a more normal winter’s night, especially it if had been raining harder. But it really is impossible to get any kind of decent sleep – the ground is hard and your body starts to hurt everywhere, the city is light and noisy and I’m hungry and thirsty.
Soon I will go home and see my family, have a shower, eat some muesli, have a Lavazza coffee and then go to work. Homeless people just get to face another day of nothing, with no rest, no food, no feeling of belonging. I couldn’t function without all of these – how do they keep going with nothing? How can they escape from this horrible cycle of poverty?
What a great job organisations like Social Bite are doing around our cities to fight this very worthy cause. We’re at £995 from 57 donors… hopefully we can get the next £5 before Nicola Sturgeon arrives with bacon rolls…
But I suspect Jon Gwinnett will check on the status before he even gets his Wellingtons on this morning for his coffee, and will be rallying the troops. Can we get to £1,500? I think we can!
If you'd like to help us get to £1,500, please donate here.