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Hundreds Sleep Out to raise awareness of homelessness

Centrepoint Sleep Out at in Broadgate's Exhcange Square, London. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/Centrepoint Centrepoint Sleep Out at in Broadgate's Exhcange Square, London. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/Centrepoint

Friday, November 9, 2012
4:41 PM

Hundreds of people braved the cold last night in London to sleep outside and raise awareness of homelessness.

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Centrepoint Sleep Out at in Broadgate's Exhcange Square, London. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/CentrepointCentrepoint Sleep Out at in Broadgate's Exhcange Square, London. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/Centrepoint

Centrepoint’s Sleep Out ever at Broadgate’s Exchange Square in London saw 850 people bedding down on cardboard with the aim of raising £250,000, which will be used to support the homeless this winter.

Among those who took part was television presenter Richard Madeley, who said today levels of homelessness in Britain were a “national shame” and benefit cuts would make the problem worse.

Asked what he would take away from the experience, he said: “A sense of shame that we live in a society that allows this to happen.

“I’m not going to go on a political rant about benefit cuts and the fact that kids under 25 aren’t going to be getting housing benefit quite soon, but that’s going to have a major impact, that really is.

Richard Madeley is an ambassador for Centrepoint. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/CentrepointRichard Madeley is an ambassador for Centrepoint. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/Centrepoint

“I know cuts have to be made, but it is going to make the problem worse.”

Madeley, who is an ambassador for Centrepoint, was joined by his daughter Chloe Madeley plus cast members from Downton Abbey.

Entertainment for those sleeping out came from comedian Tim Vine, girl band Stooshe and chart-topper Eliza Doolittle. The Thick Of It star Rebecca Front read the bedtime story, while the cast of Shrek the Musical popped along for a sing-a-long.

This year was the first time a national Sleep Out in such a large scale has been held, with eight cities across the country holding events.

Singer Eliza Doolittle performs. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/CentrepointSinger Eliza Doolittle performs. Picture: Harriet Armstrtong/Centrepoint

Centrepoint’s patron, the Duke of Cambridge, took part in Sleep Out in 2009. He said: “I would like to thank everyone in London who braved the elements and participated in the first ever nationwide Sleep Out.

“The event highlights the high rates of homelessness among young people in the United Kingdom in the 21st century and it raises vital funds to provide life-changing support to those young people.

“As patron of Centrepoint, I have seen the devastating impact of homelessness on young people, but I have also seen the remarkable work of the organisations that help, which is made possible thanks to events like Sleep Out. I am hopeful that we will see the end of youth homeless in our generation, thanks in large part to efforts like this.”

Royal Air Force personnel from No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron RAF Wittering ran a field kitchen to keep sleepers fed and watered throughout the night, and provided breakfast.

Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint’s chief executive, said: ‘Sleep Out is unique. Not only does it raise an amazing amount of money, it raises the issue of youth homelessness and gives a glimpse of what it’s like to sleep out on the cold streets of London.

“Young people are doing this every night without the protection of security, a canopy keeping the rain off and hundreds of friends supporting them.

“We urge you to support us, so we can give young people the support they need to live an independent and positive life. We are proud to be part of the first national Sleep Out and to bring this message home to so many people across the UK.”

Also taking part were staff from the Amy Winehouse Foundation, set up in memory of the late singer. The foundation has agreed a grant to Centrepoint, which will go live next year.

The grant will fund a duel diagnosis specialist programme for one year, with a worker providing focus intervention for young people between the ages of 16 and 25, which will allow the team to integrate its current support work around substance misuse and mental health issues.

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