What’s it like to be “homeless”? See my experiment.

Sleeping like homeless people for a nigh

50 Ways to Leave Your 40s

Experience #26: The Big Villa Sleep Out

Of all the challenges I’ve done so far, this one had to be the most ‘out of my comfort zone’.

This one was also the most emotional.

The Aston Villa Foundation

AVFC Foundation Supporting Homeless People

I saw ‘The Big Villa Sleep Out’ advertised a few months ago and instantly knew I had to be part of it, no matter what. I applied immediately, committed to raising the minimum £100 sponsorship and then, and only then, did I read a little bit more about what was involved.

Quite simply, for the ‘Sleep Out’ – you were required to be ‘homeless’ for the night and spend the night in a sleeping bag and away from home comforts. The event was going to be held at Villa Park; organised by the Aston Villa Foundation and all money raised would be used to support the charities for homeless people in and around Birmingham.

Well, how can you not be part of it?

Panic Sets In

On the day of the event (Friday 18th May) I started to have a few doubts; a few ‘what if’s’ and a sudden moment of regret. I’m the girl who doesn’t do camping in any shape or form, so what makes me think I can cope sleeping rough for the night? We arrived (my lovely friend Trish was also taking part) at 9 p.m., signed in and grabbed our cardboard. Yes, we had the luxury of cardboard and initially took one large piece each, before realising that everyone else had 3 pieces. Huh?! We scanned the concourse that was going to be home for the night and noticed that everyone else had made cardboard tents – ahhh, we get it now.

Easing In

The Foundation staff organised icebreakers, a quiz and a tour of the grounds to pass the time but this was now about 11p.m. on a Friday night – not a time I usually see to be honest. Most Friday’s nights I’m asleep on the settee, mouth open and dribbling long before Graham Norton comes on at 10.30 p.m. Unfortunately, directly above us was the hospitality suite, in full swing with a very loud party – so should we have even wanted to sleep, it’s safe to say we couldn’t. ‘Wonderwall’ being ruined by many drunken people is not exactly music to drift off to.

Hot Chocolate = Life

sleeping on cardboard like homeless people
Cardboard helps cushion against the hard ground.

After yet another hot chocolate, we decided (at 1a.m.) to try and get some sleep. Wriggling into a sleeping bag under a cardboard tent that is very precariously balanced is no mean feat – and even worse when you get a horrific cramp in your toes. Of all the things I had planned for (the cold, being uncomfortable, away from my bed)…Cramps? Nope. I wriggled back out of my sleeping bag like some deformed ninja; my toes cramping now in both feet and incredibly painful. More by luck than skill, the tent stayed intact and I massaged life back into my feet whilst cursing quietly under my breath.

For the next few hours, in between dozing, I got sciatica in my hip, the sleeping bag rolled down under my bum, the generator went off (very bloody loudly) every 20 minutes and the guy in the next tent snored (also very bloody loudly). I wasn’t cold per se but when I finally decided I couldn’t lie on the floor any longer (05.30), I left the relative warmth of my sleeping bag to have a stretch. And then, despite my layers of clothes, I was freezing!

Gratitude Floods My Senses

As I stood on the terrace of the Trinity Stand, I was suddenly overcome with gratitude. Who am I to moan about sciatica, a noisy generator and somebody snoring? It was for ONE NIGHT ONLY. One night! Homeless people live like this every night. They have to put up with much worse on the streets. We were lucky; we were glamorous homeless people – we had toilets, hot drinks, food, each other.

Whilst we may not have been totally homeless for the night, we did raise money and more importantly awareness of other people’s situations; situations they shouldn’t be in. Why are people homeless at all – it’s 2019 for goodness sake!

The experience was different, unique and without a doubt, something I would do again in heartbeat. Even though I didn’t get nearly the sleep my fitbit reported!


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