Edinburgh-based youth homelessness charity the Rock Trust is looking for people who have supported it in the past.
Having celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016, this year marks 25 years since the charity held its first Sleep Out in Edinburgh: that is 25 years of the Edinburgh community supporting the charity in its work to help young people affected by or at risk of homelessness.
In that time, more than 2,000 people have participated in a Rock Trust Sleep Out, collectively raising over half a million pounds towards services for local young people.
Established in 1991, the Rock Trust works with 16-25 year olds who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They support over 400 young people every year, and offer more than 50 bed spaces each night to young people in Edinburgh, East Lothian, and West Lothian.
The first Sleep Out was held outside St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church in 1993. For the last few years, the event has taken place at Festival Square, while a parallel event for young people aged 12-18 has been held in the original location on George Street.
In 1993, thanks to Sleep Out fundraisers and an individual’s anonymous donation, the Rock Trust secured its first flat for homeless young people. This formed the basis of the Bedrock accommodation service, which it still provides today. Twenty five years on and as a direct result of the passion of Sleep Out participants and all those who donated, there are 43 flats, while more than 400 young people are being helped every year to avoid or move on from homelessness.
To mark the milestone, this year the Rock Trust Sleep Out on 26 October will move to the iconic St Andrew Square, a stone’s throw from the Rock Trust offices and Youth Housing Hub on Albany Street. In addition, this year the Rock Trust has teamed up with The Skinny as official media partner.
Kate Polson, Rock Trust CEO, said: ‘Our annual Sleep Outs are a vital source of funding for us, ensuring that we can plan ahead, invest in new projects and continue to respond to the changing needs of young people.
‘But it isn’t just about fundraising. These events turn a spotlight on the very specific challenges facing homeless young people and encourage individuals in our community to feel that they can make a difference.
‘We have always made it clear that our events are not about replicating the misery and hardships faced by people sleeping rough.
‘It is just one night in the year. Participants are kept safe, there is entertainment, and we provide food and drinks. But if they wake up in the morning after trying to sleep on cardboard in the cold drizzle, and on the way back to their home and a hot shower they think deeply about the reality of the experience they’ve just had a glimpse of, then that’s important.’
To help celebrate, the Rock Trust is reaching out to the community and asking, ‘Were you there?’
Individuals and businesses who have taken part over the past 25 years are encouraged to get in touch with the Rock Trust team and share their stories, memories and photographs, and help them to create an exhibition of 25 years of Edinburgh Sleeping Out.
Alex Smith, group financial controller of Forth Ports Group, who took part in 1995 with her university flatmates, recently reconnected with the charity and is now on its board of trustees. She said: ‘The Rock Trust Sleep Out is one of my stand-out memories from university days – it was a meaningful way for our group of friends to get some perspective on our own lives and a better appreciation of the difficulties faced by those forced onto the streets.
‘We did have fun despite the cold and, most importantly, we raised awareness and funds to help ensure other young people didn’t end up sleeping rough.’
Another supporter of past Sleep Outs is local councillor and homeless champion Kate Campbell, who took part in 2017. Describing her experience, she said: ‘In no way do you experience what actually sleeping rough feels like. But you do experience being cold all night and broken sleep. And when you get up in the morning and head back to your nice warm home, it makes you think about what it would be like if every night was like that, and every day you woke up with nowhere to go. The work the Rock Trust does is so important, it was great to be a part of helping them raise funds to continue doing it.’
If you have participated in a Rock Trust Sleep Out, get in touch with the team. Email email@example.com and share your story. If you’re interested in signing up to this year’s Sleep Out, click HERE.