Spending 48 hours living on the streets of Blackpool in the middle of December is an experience many people would be in a hurry to forget.
But for Gaynor Eld it will bring back some haunting memories as she helps raise awareness of the plight of the resort’s homeless.
She will join Mark Butcher and Mark Broughton, who help run the Amazing Graze soup kitchen in Blackpool, sleeping rough in the town centre at the weekend. The trio are taking on the challenge to highlight the difficulties faced by the resort’s homeless population.
Gaynor, who helps prepare food for around 300 people a week who visit the soup kitchen, knows only too well how hard it can be.
“I am a recovering addict,” she said. “I have been homeless. That is why I’m very passionate about recovery in Blackpool and about the soup kitchen.”
For 31 years she drank and took drugs but she has been clean and sober for two years. She uses her experiences to help others at Amazing Graze.
She added: “I can’t be ashamed – I was ill. It’s about showing my friends it is possible.”
To Mr Butcher, a former street pastor who founded the soup kitchen back in May 2014, she is an ‘amazing example’.
Having built the soup kitchen up from nothing last year, it is on track to serve 15,000 this year – all without any funding.
He said: “I saw the need when I was out on the street in Blackpool.
“I got to meet the homeless. They weren’t getting Government help – they were just relying on handouts.”
Despite a number of other groups working to help them in the resort, these people had nowhere to go on certain nights of the week. Now, through Amazing Graze, he helps give people a warm meal, a shower and clean clothes.
But with huge demand and a handful of ‘food partners’ – including several local businesses – donating food, he now needs to raise money to build on the soup kitchen’s success.
Amazing Graze is in the process of registering as a charity but needs an annual income of £5,000 to qualify. Between them, the trio are hoping to raise the cash when they take to the streets on Saturday.
They will be dropped off in St John’s Square, with only the clothes on their back, at 8am. They will sleep in doorways, surviving on handouts, until 8am on Monday.
Mr Broughton, from Lytham, has been involved with Amazing Graze for just over a year.
He said: “We will have no food, no water, no nothing. We are going to depend on the good nature of places like this.
“We’re going to go to Amazing Graze on the Saturday until we get kicked out at 9pm –then we have to find somewhere to sleep.
“The toughest part of the 48 hours undoubtedly is going to be 9pm on Sunday until first light on Monday.”
n Amazing Graze has around 50 volunteers and runs a soup kitchen on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
For details and to donate, visit www.gofundme.com/amazinggraze