What's it like to sleep on the streets for a night?

Keith Blowes is a senior SHESQ manager, currently working on the LM Joint Venture HS2 works in Birmingham. Here, Keith writes a detailed and honest account of his night on the street's of Birmingham in aid of St Basil's big sleepout.

I volunteered to sleep rough because…OK scratch that, I try to do lots (as much as I can) for charity and when the opportunity came up to help a charity (St Basils) local to the HS2 project I’m working on I couldn’t say no. Sleeping rough? That’s easy, all I have to do is keep warm and sleep.

Let me tell you a secret, it was neither easy nor something I would ever want to do out of any choice other than to help others. Normally, I like to think of myself as young but it turns out birthdays count, and I felt every one of the 43 years I have behind me, taking their toll. Don’t get me wrong there were older people than me doing it, but I am writing about my experience.

I set my sleeping area up thinking I had done a good job, we attended the service and then came back having been fed (the most amazing vegetarian Curry, and I am no vegetarian lol), tried to ignore all the excited (some of them a little drunk) voices chatting and singing, and slept.

Having never slept with my clothes on I kicked off my shoes, took off my coat and climbed in to the sleeping bag a little unprepared for how cold (I believe minus something or other) it was going to get. 

During the five or so hours I was actually in my ‘home’ I was stood on, woke up, rained on, damp ridden, nudged and cold – very cold. I should add I had plastic sheeting, a box of my own, a fantastic sleeping bag and a ground sheet.

I woke up every hour before falling back to sleep and at half four, when everyone was rising and the site was being cleared, I rose very sleepy headed. I tidied my pitch, putting my shoes on and feeling drunk tired - sleep had made me feel more tired than before going to bed. 

We were provided a breakfast roll, cake and tea and I then sat for an hour waiting for my first train home.

How did I feel? Actually, despite the tired, bleary eyed, aching, sore throated, pounding headed, aching eared thing that had become me, I felt lucky. We had it easy for the night; we had food, we knew we were going home in the morning and we were doing it to help others. 

I felt kind of sad, sad that other people weren’t as lucky as me, that what I had done for the night was sleep in relative luxury to that of an actual homeless young (or old) person. Ultimately, I also felt lucky that I have been able to deal with everything that life has chucked at me thus far.

I have kids, they are cared for and I would do anything for them, but I had to stop and think that every homeless person is somebody’s child. There is something we can all do and it becomes a matter of choice. 

I have been close to the line of not having a home myself, in debt and in circumstances that caused me to take stock, spending years in relative financial difficulty. I came out of that a better person – but we aren’t all that lucky, or even given the right opportunities.  If you have a job, a family and can pay your bills and still have money for a treat every now and again then feel blessed (especially the family part).

Now I just have to set my sights on the next event I can challenge myself with.

You can still donate on Keith's fundraising page by clicking here

Posted Friday, December 1, 2017 by Keith Blowes

People, Community, Projects, Opinion, Engineering, Rail

About Keith Blowes

Keith is a Senior SHESQ Manager, currently working on LM joint venture's HS2 project in Birmingham.

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