New record set for number of people taking part in Northampton's Big Sleep Out
Can you brave the cold? More than 500 people are bracing themselves this week to sleep outside in wintry conditions to raise money for Northampton's homeless.
Now in its second decade, The Northampton Hope Centre’s Big Sleep Out aims to help residents understand the realities of living on the streets as well as to raise thousands of pounds for charity.
The Hope Centre moved into Oasis House in 2012 and supports 120 homeless people every day, providing them with hot meals, showers, clothes and delivers educational classes and training.
Fundraisers are asked to sleep in cardboard boxes (no tents are allowed) in wintry temperatures and can only use plastic sheeting, blankets and extra layers to stay warm - as many street homeless people do.
CEO at Northampton Hope Centre, Robin Burgess, said: "Five hundred people is more than ever. Last year, 360 people booked and 240 people showed up."
There is no sponsorship target set for the event. Participants are encouraged to raise what they can and every penny will be spent in Northampton.
"We will spend the money on keeping the day centre open as one month costs about £35,000," Robin added.
"We hope to raise enough to keep it open for three months. Money will go on rent, heat and light, insurance, staffing, food, volunteers - the core costs of keeping the centre open.
"We help homeless people over the winter for 78 hours a week from 8.30am to 8pm each weekday, Saturday daytime and Sunday morning."
The event is taking place this year at Franklins Gardens on January 31 - in a protected environment, with first aiders on site, places to warm up, get dry and refreshments nearby.
Robin added: "We open at 7pm on Friday evening and people can leave around 7.30am the next morning.
"Those taking part need to dress warmly and bring the material to construct a shelter, including plastic, but no tent.
"We will be running a 'best shelter' contest judged by the deputy mayor."
It comes as the Hope Centre, based in Campbell Street, this month signed a license agreement with social housing operator Midland Heart to continue occupying parts Oasis House after they were served an eviction notice in October 2018.