From Big Sleep Out to Big Share Nikki Atkinson, Asset Coach at Mayday Trust, asks how charities can develop the momentum created by Big Sleep Out and suggests a deliberate city-wide approach to providing resources to promote and strengthen the aspirations of people experiencing homelessness. As the beautiful autumn leaves are swirling throughout the city, and we set our clocks back preparing for winter, many of us were overjoyed with the prospect of having an extra hour’s sleep in our warm and comfortable beds. But how about those of us who will be sleeping out, in the longer, darker and colder months? According to the latest figures, 3,569 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night. The number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled in the past five years, with a 30% increase in just the last year. Last Friday, charities across Oxford organised the Big Oxford Sleep Out, inviting people to sleep out for the night, and reflect on how they can help people move out of the streets. People from all walks of life gathered together in Oxford City Centre. There was music, friendship, and many cold hands and feet. It was a successful event raising awareness, and crucial funds for charities – and we thank every person who participated and donated, for their fantastic spirit and intentions to change our city. The event not only raised money to support the crucial work of local charities but also made the scale of homelessness visible in our city. For many people, seeing their friends and loved ones on the street, even for one night, and even on a night to raise money for the charities is hard to digest. Luckily, the participants had warm clothes, hot tea, food, and more importantly friends to support them throughout the night, and they had the luxury of going back home the next morning. How about those who do not? And what can we do to help them? What do we have in common? I believe we have far more in common with those people than just the experience of sleeping out (once), and these commonalities can help a lot more to end homelessness. As a coach at Mayday Trust, I have had many conversations with people who are experiencing homelessness. Generally, people feel that the 'homelessness' label only excludes them further. Most people are fully aware of whatever situation they may be in, talking about it all day creates negativity. People need to be recognised for their skills, qualities and identity in order to feel good and want to move forward and for the right reasons. So how can we ensure next time, we go beyond sharing the experience of sleeping on the streets, see people for who they really are, listen to their stories, and support their strengths to achieve their aspirations and dreams? And how can we do this together, not just as charities alone, but as a whole city? Big Oxford Share Day I am writing this blog to ask for your help to organise a Big Oxford Share Day – where everyone in the city shares their skills, talents, resources and friendship with everyone else. My vision is a spring day in our beautiful city Oxford, where everyone shares what they have with everyone else, indiscriminately. The high street, the parks, the college grounds, everywhere in the city opens their doors to people experiencing homelessness. People of all ages and from all walks of life bring what they can: music, arts, dance, food, or just good old friendly smiles and chatter. And we use all these assets to discover what matters to people, what support and help people want from us, and to help them realise their full potential. A day of sharing what we have, to find and grow the spark in people. That will be revolutionary. Call to Action You can help us in many different ways: • Opening the doors of your business, or organisation to people for a few hours• Setting up an outdoors cinema, theatre, or music hall• Performing arts, painting, drawing• Playing football, volleyball, rugby, etc.• Sharing clothes, books, and other things you think no one should live without• Donating a fun session, e.g. paintball, go karting.• Cooking, baking, making tea• Having a stall offering volunteering, training or job opportunities• Talking to everyone, and being friendly• Many many other things that I can’t think of, but you are willing to share So if you want to join the Big Oxford Share, or if you have any questions, please contact our Oxford Asset Manager for further information, and we will make sure to get back to you!