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Sleep out story
Sleep out storyPosted on: 10 October 2018 in
10 hrs as a rough sleeper
13 yr old son and I arrive on site to a noisy corner of the town centre and are registered. Its too early to sleep but there’s nothing to do out on the streets unless you want to eat or drink, so we hang about chatting to other participants. Temperature is dropping. Add gloves to hands and makes sure zips are all the way to neck. Chat is now mostly about how cold it is getting. Meanwhile pubs and clubs are full of noisy happy people having a fun time. Listen to the inspiring work of the project and to personal stories of individual homeless people. Begin to understand a little more how much project work is needed to help people turn things around.
Temperature still going down. Bedtime. Our Protectors for the night help us settle and then gather at a table to keep watch. Get snuggled down in sleeping bag atop one long slice of thin cardboard. Feels cosy for perhaps 20 minutes. Have been gifted some hand warmer sachets. Gratefully insert them inside gloves. Attempt to get into normal sleeping position. Realise narrow sleeping bag prevents this so negotiate with my body. Finally feel a bit comfy but the cold keeps seeping in through neck of sleeping bag. Hand warmers are so hot they start to burn. Remove them and place between thighs. Try new position. Noise from bars is a hindrance to sleep. My son falls sleep straight away and I marvel at his ability
Oasis cover song from live band in pub makes me hate Liam Gallagher. Still can’t get into comfy position. On side makes hips dig into ground. Try on back. Unless knees are up it hurts my back, but slippy sleeping bag makes it impossible for feet to stay on ground with legs in raised position. Hear various voices at the table where our Protectors sit. Slurred enquiries, intoxicated life stories. People seem to give generously to the collecting pots in their drunken hazes. A drink feels like a nice option. Wouldn’t say no to a cider, would help me feel sleepy. Son still sleeps on oblivious. Can’t see him, he is buried so deep in his bag. Feel envious of his warm hat while I have just a loose hood.
Jolt awake. I must have actually drifted off for a while. Thighs now burning from hand warmer. Hands are cold so relocate warmers to their rightful place. Shouting in street seems to have woken me. Pub has emptied out, people don’t seem to want to go home. They hang about talking loudly and drunkenly. Some happy drunk, others not so. Night club instead now in full swing. Arguments seem to be brewing. Can’t see people or hear words but their voices carry, and the tone isn’t friendly. Mentally ask them to go home and take their issues with them. Sit up and check on the faces of our Protectors. They are watching but don’t seem overly concerned. Am comforted. Now I am awake I am uncomfortable again and have vague feeling of needing a wee. Can’t face getting out of my warm bag though. Attempt to settle down again
Toss. Turn. Fidget. Toss. Turn again. Hips hurts, arms ache. Neck and shoulders ache. Muse briefly about the benefits of sleeping tablets. Want something to just knock me out. So tired but so uncomfortable. Sit and listen to the ongoing noise of nightclub smokers in their caged outdoor area. Think back to my younger days when this might have been my Saturday night out. Feel thankful I remembered to wear the warmest wool socks I own. Its no good. My bladder is now keeping me awake. Spot a small group heading for the toilets in the local church and seize my moment. Feels very cold out of my bed but moving my body is nice, gives it a stretch. Emptying bladder a relief, perhaps now I can sleep. Back to my sleeping bag. Start to get warm again. Getting comfy is harder. Every position hurts. Streetlight bothering my eyes. Begin a silent war where it must be kept out at all costs. Every time I shift position even slightly my hood falls off and am pierced by light again. Begin to hate my long hair as it also irritates me. The drawstring around the top of the sleeping bag keeps flopping on me annoyingly. Realise am just very very grumpy with tiredness.
Son decides he now needs a wee so off we pop for another chilly toilet run. Feel quietly irritated at getting cold again. Noise from nightclub continues and there are so many people just wandering about. Re enter sleeping bags and bed down again. Toss. Turn. Fidget. Try rucksack for pillow but it doesn’t help.
Beginning to feel slightly sleepy when night club is empties and with it all the drunken woes of Woking. A thirtieth Birthday seems to have ended badly. The numbered helium balloons float around dejectedly in the midst of it all. Our Protectors form a defensive ring around us. Am glad for their presence. Feel small and vulnerable on the ground. The atmosphere is aggressive. I wonder where the Police are. Street Angels won’t be enough if this kicks off any more. I sit up to feel bigger and braver. Son starts to stir and asks what is going on. I tell him its all fine although I wonder if I am a bad mother for bringing him in to this volatile situation. People eventually start to wander off but insist on returning back to the argument. Want to tell them to bugger off home and take their disputes with them. A stumbling physical altercation heads our way and is repelled by our Protectors. Stay sitting up and being on my guard. This isn’t over. A young woman falls flat on her face throwing her late night culinary purchases all over the ground. Fortunately, slightly away from us otherwise several people would have had a Pepsi shower. 2 Austrian guys appear to think the homeless sleep out is all quite a joke and loudly jest that they would like to join in. They seem to donate some cash and finally move on. Son falls asleep again. The thirtieth Birthday argument smolders on.
Finally, people have decided to go home and there is almost quiet apart from the sound of multitudinous bottles being showered in to wheelie bins. Attempt to sleep. Realise its only a couple of hours till dawn. Enter in to a love hate relationship with my hand warmers which are still working. Whilst undoubtedly hot they seem to just burn the places they touch rather than keeping me actually warm. Move them about and eventually just throw them down the sleeping bag ungratefully. I am so grumpy from lack of sleep. My nose is cold and am still battling with the streetlight. Try sleeping on my stomach but can’t seem to find a place for my arms unless out of the sleeping bag which isn’t an option. Toss. Turn. Toss…oh here we go. The Austrian fellows are back with their loud and mocking voices. Haven’t they got homes to go to? What is their purpose for returning? I eye them carefully. Our Protectors hush them and somehow manage to move them on. Toss. Turn. Still marveling at son’s ability to sleep like a baby. Hips very painful now, intolerably so. No longer an option to be on side so lay flat on back which kills my spine. Calf is now being burned by a hand warmer. Feel like I finally might drop off as tiredness is beginning to overwhelm me. 4.30am beckons and I sense a little lightening of the sky.
Awake to being told the street cleaners are coming out and it is time to move on. Did I actually just sleep for a while there? Open eyes to see dawn light and bodies stirring and packing up. Getting out of the sleeping bag makes me shiver. For the first time wish I could stay snuggled up here. Don’t want to face this cold morning where I can see my breath. We help with tidying up cardboard and briefly swap sleepout stories with other participants. Few seem to have had much sleep. We thank our Protectors and head for the car. Visions of my bed at home swim through my head and realise I actually haven’t thought of this all night. Have been purely in survivor mode. And Mama Bear mode. Car tells us it is 4 degrees. Drive home in a slight haze. Send son to my bed to warm it for me while I make quick hot drink. I arrive to my pre-warmed and more importantly blessedly soft and squishy bed and sit and drink my tea while my son snores softly beside me. My hips relax in to the doughy mattress. I wonder at what I have just experienced. I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I simply cannot imagine that scenario night after night, ad infinitum. I feel broken after just one night.