Pupils sleep rough to raise awareness

Students at St Mary's Catholic College prepare for their night sleeping outdoors to raise money for homeless charities
Students at St Mary's Catholic College prepare for their night sleeping outdoors to raise money for homeless charities
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Schoolchildren showed solidarity to homeless people by ‘sleeping rough’ for a night in a bid to raise money for charity and awareness of their plight.

The teenagers from St Mary’s Catholic College bedded down on the school grounds overnight, with only cardboard and a few sleeping bags for home comforts to raise cash for Streetlife.

The 30 members of the school’s youth St Vincent de Paul group were also visited by staff and users of Blackpool Foyer, a service which provides accommodation and training for 16- to 25-year-olds in need.

Two young people who had experienced homeless talked to the St Mary’s teens about their time on the streets and the difference The Foyer made to them.

It was an eye-opening experience for the 15- to 18-year-olds, who were out from 7pm on Tuesday night to 7am the next morning, ahead of a regular day in classes.

Kirsty Wheelhouse, 17, said: “The sleep-out was the most sobering, burdensome and turbulent but rewarding experience.

“I now grasp the salient – food, warmth and a sense of security – things all should have, but often do not.”

So far the group has raised more than £100 for Streetlife and The Foyer and now a number of the youngsters involved are keen to give their time to volunteer for some homeless charities too.

Pupils from the school, on St Walburga’s Road, have already worked with Streetlife, which provides support and shelter for vulnerable young people, based on Buchanan Street, Blackpool.

Teens last year decorated the shelter for Christmas celebrations for its residents.

School chaplain Neal Gilbride said: “This was an opportunity for the young people to put faith into action and make a difference in the community.

“We’d collected cardboard over a few weeks so some of the pupils made ‘beds’ while others gambled on a balmy night being warm enough for them not to need much cover.

“They found it quite tough and now a few are looking into volunteering now.

“It was all about raising awareness of the issue as well as money for the charities.”

Monica Brownwood, 15, added: “It was a great experience and luckily enough I got some sleep but I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually be homeless and not know where you’re going to spend the night.”