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Mental health trust staff sleep rough to highlight homelessness
23/04/2018
Staff at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) walked the streets handing out clothes and food parcels and chatting with people living rough, before bedding down overnight for a sleep-out to raise awareness of homelessness.

The Early Intervention Team based at Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth wanted to highlight the effect that homelessness can have on service users and the barrier it can pose to recovery from mental ill-health.

So a group of mental health nurses, social workers and therapists, including one who works with young people, from the team slept rough overnight Friday to Saturday (20-21 April), after offering support to people living on the streets.

Charlotte White, Community Manager, Early Intervention Team, said: “We are familiar with the challenges faced by service users who not only have mental health problems but also no home to go to, which is why we wanted to highlight the issue by doing a sleep-out.

“But it was still an eye-opening experience for all of us to sleep out on the streets ourselves, and to hear the stories of the people who sleep rough all the time.

“It was also very moving. A homeless man even came and joined us outside the hospital after he had heard about what we were doing.

“We were there to support him, and he came to support us! He didn’t have much but offered to share what he had.

“He told us about his mental health issues and how he came to be homeless. One of the reasons he joined us was for safety. As we discovered, it can be quite hard finding homeless people as they tend to hide away; they are scared of strangers because of the abuse they suffer from some people who don’t understand, or don’t want to understand.

“So every night they have to find somewhere safe, away from other people.

“We were fortunate to be in a group, but we got a clear sense of how lonely and dangerous it is for people living alone on the streets.”

She added: “Also, it can be easy to judge people sleeping rough who drink, but when you hear why, and when you’ve slept rough yourself, you find it easier to understand.”

Among the people they met were two girls who were on the streets through no fault of their own, said Charlotte. “We chatted, gave them food parcels and some clothes. I think they just appreciated being shown a little kindness.”

As part of the awareness-raising, the team also collected donations of food and other essential supplies for Great Yarmouth Foodbank in the run-up to the sleep-out.

They have also raised about £500 so far for local foodbanks and Tribal Trust, a support network which helps people in Great Yarmouth who are homeless or in need.

Charlotte added: “I’d like to thank everyone who supported the sleep-out, by joining in or 
donating money or food to the foodbank collection. 

“It’s amazing how even the smallest gift, even just taking the time to chat and listen, can have a positive effect on someone’s life. And I want everyone to know how much their support has helped to make a difference to vulnerable people’s lives.”

To donate via the team’s JustGiving page, visit www.nsft.uk/sleepout​

For press enquiries, email: nsft.communications@nsft.nhs.uk