By April Clayton

Hillingdon residents are joining the crusade to end homelessness by sleeping in a cardboard box on a cold December winters night with the support of special guests Boris Johnson and Russell Brand. 

Families and students of all ages are being encouraged to take part in the Big SleepOut on December 2 at the Hillingdon Athletic centre which will raise money to help get more people off the streets of Hillingdon.

The Hillingdon Homeless Charity, Trinity, have organised this unique event for 8 years which supports the fantastic work the charity is doing. The Uxbridge based charity work with the local council to house people and provide emergency support for people who sleep rough in Slough. Trinity are setting their sights big with a target to raise £200,000 this year.

Homelessness in Hillingdon has more than doubled since 2010 and has increased across London by 127% in that time. Hidden Homelessness has also risen which see’s 62% of single homeless people unknown and may not show up in official figures.

Trinity’s Community Engagement Manager at Trinity, Andy Robertson said; “We really need local people to sign up and accept the challenge to support the vital work we do. The Big SleepOut changes your outlook on Homelessness forever”.

Trinity Homeless Projects house two new people every week in the borough and 60% of the people who have left the organisation are still in employment and in independent accommodation. Mr Robertson added; ‘The work that we are doing seriously works to change people’s lives for the long term, and we are very proud of that’.

For Mr Robertson; “the ultimate aim is to eventually get our residents moving on to a place where they can live independently, getting them thinking about their life after. ‘We want them to wake up and their first thought not be where am I going to sleep tonight, but actually I am employable and I count”.

The Trinity Big SleepOut will celebrate with everyone taking part to thank people for coming together for being part of the the long-term solution to end homelessness. People will get to see comedians, musicians and appearances from actor Russell Brand and Uxbridge MP and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson who will show their support for the great cause. As Midnight approaches, all lights will be turned off and you will be left to survive in your box for the night in freezing conditions.

Jessica Watson, 20, raised £300 when taking part in the Big SleepOut last year with a group of friends. The Brunel student said; “We were given a large plastic bag and a massive cardboard box and then it was up to us to sleep in it for the night. It was freezing and we hardly slept. As soon as 6am came we left to go home to our warm beds. The actual night was a real eye opener and it definitely made me think twice about the homeless and how they can’t just go some where warm when they’ve had enough”.

The money raised this year will not only house people, feed and clothe people at their day centre in Slough but will also go towards developing a new coaching technique which will aim to catch people before they reach homelessness. Mr Robertson said; “We want to be there for people before they hit rock bottom, not rescuing people from homelessness but saving them from it” added Trinity’s Mr Robertson.

Trinity’s mission is about a lot more than ending homelessness. Mr Robertson said; “we exist to end homelessness but its about getting to the root of the problem, redeveloping people’s confidence and self-esteem. A support team is on hand to show people that they have the solution to their own problems and to make them realise they are valued as real people”.

Trinity’s most loyal supporter and one and only Sleep-out ever present is Chris O’Connor. “The Big SleepOut means that, by helping Trinity, I can find a way to help fellow human beings, giving them meaning and purpose in life instead of feeling like the dregs of society”.

The retired youth worker always remembers the strapline Trinity uses, ‘#itcouldbeme’. Mr O’Connor added; “Each of us could be two pay packets away from being homeless”.

“I think we could each do with having our perspectives widened or changed. One night in a cardboard box which is fresh and new, not wet or dirty, with plastic to cover it and the following morning going home to a heated residence with hot water can only give the mildest hint of what it would be like to be homeless but it might make someone think twice before they look down on someone who appears unkempt and dirty because they have had to sleep on a wet, cold, hard pavement night after night after night”.

Participants are to collect a sponsorship of around £250 and pay a registration fee of £10 to take part. Anyone wanting to support Trinity in their journey to end homelessness can sign up by clicking here.