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Why I slept rough to help the young homeless - a mum's perspective

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Mother’s Day started very differently for me this year - not with the usual cards and cuddles in bed with my sons, but waking up in a sleeping bag and cardboard boxes outside Mothercare in Exeter. It wasn't the best night's sleep ever, but I'd wrapped up in plenty of layers and had a warm bed to go home to. Also, I'd been taking part in an organised event and didn't feel as vulnerable as those who have no choice but to sleep that way, night after night.


Over an early morning cuppa, I sat chatting to someone who’s been homeless for most of his life after running away from his parents at the age of 12.  Glen Walker, who you may have come across selling the Big Issue in Exeter, ended up living on the streets because, for him, it was better than staying at home. Sadly, Glen’s story isn’t uncommon and youth homelessness is on the rise…


That’s why I decided to take part in this year’s sponsored sleep out in aid of YMCA Exeter.


Like everybody else who slept rough in the city centre last Saturday night, I pledged to raise a minimum of £100 in sponsorship. I was hoping to raise at least double that and, so far, donations from my friends and family total £231.20 + gift aid. Thank you. I’m really grateful to everyone who supported me. If you'd like to join them, it's not too late.


YMCA Exeter says that the event has raised an impressive £10,000 so far and the total is still rising. To put that into perspective, it costs the charity £5,000 to house one young person for a nine month stay, providing a safe bed and support to move on to live independently.  That means two more young people can be helped over the coming year to get their lives back on track.


It’s not just about the money, though. It’s about raising awareness of a situation that’s growing worse year by year. According to the charity’s chief executive, Peter Stephenson, there’s been a fivefold increase in the number of young people sleeping rough in Exeter in the last four years. Several of them shared their story at the event - young people who’d become homeless through no fault of their own.


Glen Walker did the sleep out because he’s now got a plan to move his life forward - big time! - and wanted to give something back. Through his own endeavours, he’s saved enough money to start a new life abroad, living on a boat he was sold for £1. He aims to set up his own business and I’m sure he will.  You can follow and support Glen on Twitter @BigIssueGlen.


You have to admire someone like him who is dealt a rough hand in life and manages to turn it around. It’s all too easy to make judgements and assumptions about why people end up “down and out” when you have a home and an income and, most importantly, a loving and supportive family. Those were my thoughts, anyway, on Mother’s Day.


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