Over £110,000 has been raised so far for this year’s Sleep Out event for homelessness charity Glass Door.
Started in 2013, the annual fundraiser will begin at 9:30pm tonight in Duke of York Square in Chelsea to raise awareness about homelessness and funds to support and shelter individuals without a home.
After taking place virtually last year due to Covid-19, the event will take a hybrid format this year, with 200 people heading to the square, and many more taking part from afar.
Glass Door’s head of communications Melissa Kerschen said that because of the pandemic, it didn’t take much for people to be pushed onto the street.
She added: “There have been measures in place to protect people from becoming homeless and that’s done a pretty good job of protecting people, however there were still people falling through the cracks.
“People are calling it this ‘perfect storm of a situation’ and I hate to use hyperbole, but I think this is not just hyperbole.
“Furlough measures are ending, evictions are looming and the cost of heating is rising and we still have Covid.”
Kerschen said there have been more people experiencing homelessness for the first time over the past year and a half, including more women and young people.
Glass Door provides support year-round with emergency winter shelters operating from November through April, the coldest months of the year.
Last year the charity provided individual rooms rather than communal shelters, alongside the government’s “Everyone In” scheme that provided homeless people with rooms in empty hostels and hotels.
Kerschen said they were able to support more people than ever before, and it would be a shame to lose the momentum.
As they come to reopen this year, they face the challenge of accommodating people whose access to the vaccine may be limited.
This year they will have a combination of group spaces and individual rooms, with some specifically reserved for those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, though these are more expensive to run.
Glass Door will also be helping those who might struggle to get vaccinated due to a lack of correct documents, a permanent address or an internet connection.
Kerschen said: “People need to be empowered to know they have a right to a vaccine.”
Taking part in the Sleep Out event is free, but participants are expected to aim to raise £500.
Before this year’s event, Glass Door had raised just under £1.5million, with the goal to raise £200,000 this year.
Cate Archer, who has participated in the event multiple times before, this year donated £100 each to 50 new participants as she won’t be able to attend herself.
She said: “I often see people living on our city streets and through talking to them know that it could be any of us.
“There’s nobody that’s immune to having their lives turned upside down.”
In previous years, Archer attended with her therapy pug Doug, who she said was able to see past people’s appearances and not judge people based on their outward appearance.
She said: “However benevolent we try to be, we have to try to look beyond that whereas my little dog was able to not see what isn’t worth seeing.”
Kerschen encouraged people to help out in whatever way they can, suggesting people educate themselves, have a chat with someone they meet or make a donation.
She said: “I would encourage people to do just one small thing.
“It sometimes can feel daunting, the challenge of wanting to fix the world’s problems and not knowing where to start, but there’s always something we can do.”
For more information about Glass Door’s Sleep Out event, visit the website here.
Featured image credit: Glass Door