From the Rectory
September 2006

Sleep Out for the Homeless

Lesley Cunningham and myself travelled to Winchester on the evening of Friday 21st July following Choir practice. The weather was hot and very humid. We arrived with our cardboard boxes, compliments of Lesley (she has been homeless herself), and were somewhat surprised to find no one else in the Close. A note pinned to the door of Church House invited us round the back and into the garden. There we found about a dozen others. Four groups who had booked in had cancelled because it was too hot! Their sponsorship, so needed, being forfeited I imagine. We both wondered if the homeless had the same opportunity to opt out of being homeless because of the weather.

We arrived too late for soup and bread for supper, but I did manage to get the last, literally the last, crust of bread. After Compline in the garden as dusk gently enveloped us, we settled down in our temporary makeshift homes. Leslie next to me in a box which made any movement quite impossible, but somehow she slept peacefully. I got into my sleeping bag and then couldn't get into the box which was four feet long but only eight inches deep, it took some careful wriggling before I made myself comfortable, someone offered me a stick to widen the box, very welcome, but then I didn't dare to move in case it collapsed and wrapped me up. I'd also been told that there were rats in the garden and that did somewhat influence my attempt at sleep!

All was quiet apart from the clock chiming. Did you know the Cathedral clock chimes every hour? Then at 3.00a.m sheet lightning lit up the sky and thunder rumbled on for an hour. Everyone scurried inside, Lesley slept on! I stayed put in my box. We were the only ones left outside. Then there was an enormous clap of thunder, spectacular lightning and the rain started. Lesley slept on! Does nothing interrupt her sleep? I stayed in my box putting great faith in the protection of my cardboard home. Would it turn to papier mache?

When daylight came, which in July is very early, we were offered coffee and soot-covered sausage sandwiches - delicious! I mentioned to Lesley that she could claim the dubious distinction of having slept with the vicar!

We travelled home and after a shower I was ready for the Flower Festival and celebrations of our Festival weekend. It was an uncomfortable night, I didn't sleep at all Lesley did! zzzzzzzzzzzzzBut I went back home to a comfortable bed, and the assurance that I wouldn't be sleeping out the following night. How very different it is for the real homeless, who get up and have to start all over again. No hot shower for them, no comfortable bed, no soot covered sausage sandwiches supplied for breakfast. Only derision and dismissive looks from passers by.

When we walked back to the car in the morning, clutching our cardboard homes, no one spoke to us, did they think that we were really homeless, perhaps? Do the homeless get ignored just because they are homeless? We had become invisible, just like them.

My sincere thanks for your kind and generous sponsorship. it totalled 209.00. Well done. It will be put to good use. Those who benefit from it won't know you, but next time you see some poor person huddled in a doorway remember the words of Jesus in Matthew's gospel, 'For as much as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.'

Yours for Christ's sake.