Week 48: Public Speaking

Week 48 of my comfort zone challenge – Public Speaking

This was a fairly unique challenge for me. I have done presentations, quizzes and now even stand up comedy… but this type of public speaking was something very different to me. I was asked by The Seaview Project, to speak at their Christmas concert, about my time sleeping rough. It was something I was more than happy to do but struggled to know where to pitch in my mind.

On the night, it was made ten times harder. The night opened with two service users of Seaview talking about what Seaview meant to them. Both the girls, ended up in tears, along with the 200 people in the audience. It meant everything to them, at the time they didn’t have anything. Seaview gives help when nobody else will.

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I found myself crossing out half my speech through my watery eyes. How can I talk about being homeless, when I have no idea what it’s like to be homeless? I really didn’t want to come across insensitive, so working out what I should and shouldn’t say seconds before speaking really threw me.

I stumbled and mumbled my way through the speech. The words were true and hopefully I came across in the right way. I found it slightly embarrassing being up there compared to the other speakers, who’s issues were so real, meaningful and emotional. My experience is that presenting at work or even stand up comedy was much easier than this. You may find that hard to believe but this his was difficult in a far different way.

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What the evening really did do, was confirm in my mind, that I am raising money for such an amazing charity. Listening to the stories of all the service users, watching the Seaview choir sing, hearing just how much of a family the charity is, made the evening one of the most emotional hours I’ve had. I have no qualms in sharing that a tear fell from my eye for the first time I can remember in a long time. The tear was in sadness of these people’s stories but their thanks to Seaview was heart-warming and inspiring.

I urge you all to read this article on the work Seaview do and if nothing else read Bob’s, head of the Seaview Choir that performed, story. One of many stories to confirm the amazing work of Seaview.

 

Week 35: Sleeping Rough

This week I left the warmth of my four walls that I call a home, and swapped my double bed for a cardboard box for the night, as I attempted to sleep rough as a homeless person would.

My bed for the night
My bed for the night

I was originally given the idea from an old colleague of mine, James. At the time, I was really up for it, but speaking to my mother, she was concerned of my safety. Being the mummy’s boy I am, I didn’t want to frighten her. However, when told about The Seaview Project organising a big sleep out, I was all over the idea.

Homelessness is something that saddens me. I was once called on a night out a “run of the mill, middle class, white kid” by a nice gentleman. He probably wasn’t far off the mark. The truth is, I couldn’t even begin to imagine life without a home, warmth, friends, family and safety. I was hoping this sleep out with give me a tiny insight in the life of being homeless (In reality, it didn’t even touch the surface).

The sleep out took place in Hastings old town and would start at 10pm all the way through to 7.30am. I was fortunate enough to have 6 layers, gloves, a sleeping bag and an amazing hat, donated by my mate Jake… This is probably more than lots of homeless people would have.

Layered up!
Layered up!

The event was a brilliant event, a bit of live acoustic music before a bedtime story and taking on the cold for the evening. I took part in this event alone, but managed to make friends amongst the 70ish other people that took part. Anna, Katie and Laura were just along from me in our cardboard city, and made sure I didn’t feel alone for the night. We played the most random game of ‘Would you rather…’ up to about midnight… So random, I couldn’t give you a single example on here. (My mum reads these).

Bed time music
Bed time music

Once everything, settled down about midnight, I actually managed to get myself quite cosy and got a couple of hours sleep. However, once it got to about 2.30am… The temperature really dropped and the pins and needles kicked in. In fact, it was insufferably cold and uncomfortable all the way through to 7.30am. I didn’t get a wink of sleep through these hours. It’s well worth noting this was on a clear Septembers night without rain.

3am Selfie
3am Selfie

Whilst staring at the stars, I really did think just how hard this would be in reality. As I mentioned earlier, this event didn’t even touch the surface on what it would be like to homeless. Sleeping with 70 other people in a secure area couldn’t begin to represent what it’s like to be homeless. Just imagine not having a home to return too in the evening. Not knowing if you’re going to be safe at night. Not having a warm shower. Not even knowing where your next meal is coming from. Imagine people not even looking you in the eye because you’re homeless. It really got me thinking how lucky I am. I complain on a Monday morning because I have a working week ahead of me, I complain I can’t afford a holiday, I complain when there’s not enough milk in the fridge. I’m damn lucky and I this is a timely reminder of the fact. I’m told you’re only ever 4 things going wrong in your life away from becoming homeless and the in the UK there definitely is a problem. I don’t want this to become some self-righteous post about how we should treat homeless people, but I do feel more can be done and that begins with us as individuals.

Once I made it to the morning, I cleared up my cardboard home and got myself a bowl of porridge and walked to the beach. I did it and raised The Seaview Project £340 in the meantime. There was a real sense that everybody there that morning had achieved something and the event raising £21 000 for Seaview really confirmed this. I’ll read back on this post if I ever do need a reminder of how lucky I am, because for the few hours I was homeless, it was horrible.

If you wish to donate.. you still can HERE

Breakfast with a view
Breakfast with a view

Week 28: The Big Issue

A relatively simple comfort zone challenge this week in the grand scheme of things. Simply go and buy a copy of the big issue.

How many times have you walked past a Big Issue seller? You know the type, shabby clothes, overgrown facial hair, often with a dog. How many times have you barely acknowledged them when they have asked you if you’d like a copy of the big issue? For me, it was way too many. To the point my ignorance of the big issue was almost embarrassing.

I’m ashamed to say that I was completely unaware that The Big Issue magazine is an initiative to get to support homeless people. The idea is that the magazine vendors have to be homeless and they sell them to help get back on track. How could I not know that? I’ve actually ignored hundreds of people selling them in the past, and in reality this is a brilliant idea.

Big Issue seller on the left with Sadie
Big Issue seller on the left with Sadie

I walked past a seller in Hove. He was leaning on a lamppost, with his dog by his side, and the rest of his magazine under a shelter. So used to being ignored, he barely even asked me if I wanted a magazine. I approached him and asked “how much for one?”.. he quickly replied “Just £2.50, sir”. As I rummaged around my wallet and started dusting of the cobwebs in the note section. He asked “How’s your day going?”… I explained how I was on my lunch break and just taking a stroll into town. I was hesitant to ask him how his day was in return, I didn’t want to make him feel bad in anyway, but it felt like it was the best way of keeping conversation with him. “It’s been a slow morning, me and Sadie (pointing to his dog) aren’t selling that well, you’re our fifth or sixth customer. Hopefully things will pick up this afternoon, now the sun is out.” Sadie looked like a golden retriever type dog. Handing over a fiver, I claimed I only had a fiver and he could keep the change, and asked if I could give Sadie a stroke. “Of course, she loves the attention. Don’t worry, I’ve got some change… I don’t want you missing out on lunch.” I then proceeded to give Sadie a little stroke, whilst talking in a ridiculous high pitched voice, like I do with dogs. He gave me the change, wished me a good day, and I went on my way.

The Big Issue

What a pleasant experience. I didn’t catch his name, but what a top bloke. I know there are stories where Big Issue sellers try to have people on, but this guy was a genuinely pleasant man. What he does with the money, that’s not for me to say or judge. At least he is trying to earn his way, so fair play to him.

I’ve had a little read of The Big Issue magazine, not a bad read. Kept me entertained over my lunch, and certainly worth paying £2.50 for, even to help someone out.