Why we got involved: the Co-Operative tell us why Sleep Out is so important to them

29 November 2019

  • Author: Pascale Day, Senior Editorial and Web Officer
  • Reading time: 5 minutes

Sleep Out is incredibly important to the work we do because right now, youth homelessness isn’t going anywhere – last year, 103,000 young people approached their council for support. “Our staff have witnessed the increase in the number of homeless people on the streets of our city and are passionate about doing their bit to help,” says Lesley McPherson, Communications Director at The Co-operative Bank. “Sleeping Out is one of the ways we can make a positive impact.”

With their HQ based in Manchester, The Co-operative have sponsored the Manchester Sleep Out for three years in a row. “As the only UK bank with its headquarters up here, it’s important for us to support our local community,” Lesley explains. “We are the bank for people with purpose, and our partnership with Centrepoint helps us take action in support of our customers’ concerns over rising levels of homelessness in towns and cities across the UK – we know from Centrepoint how many young people across the UK continue to struggle with access to affordable housing and support for issues relating to homelessness.”

For Debbie Johnson, a Co-operative Bank colleague, this rising level of homelessness is something that troubles her deeply. “I never get used to seeing homeless people and it saddens me. Having young adults at home, I can't even contemplate them being alone and homeless. Just thinking about what could have happened in a young person’s life to make them feel safer on the streets than at home makes me feel there must be something very wrong with our society,” she tells us. So when the opportunity arose to take action, Debbie jumped at the chance. “When I heard that the Co-operative Bank was sponsoring the Manchester Sleep Out and that they were looking for some of us to take part, I decided to sign up.”

The purpose of Sleep Out is essentially threefold: primarily, we’re aiming to raise funds that’ll allow us to continue to work towards our goal of “a job and a home” for young homeless people in the UK. Then, Sleep Out is a great way to raise awareness of the kind of struggles those in youth homelessness face – the fact that the main reason for youth homelessness is THIS, or the fact that our new research shows that 22,000 young people are facing homelessness this Christmas. And while it doesn’t replicate rough sleeping, the set-up of Sleep Out also aims give people an understanding of the dire situation that many young people find themselves in.  

“Having read about Centrepoint’s work, I really felt passionate about helping such a fantastic and important cause by taking part in the Sleep Out,” says Mike Reeve, fellow Co-operative Bank colleague. “I think many people don’t realise how quickly things can deteriorate, leaving young people in really vulnerable situations. Centrepoint does a great job by helping them to develop life skills and self-confidence, as well as supporting them into safe housing.”

Plus, for businesses, our corporate Sleep Out is the perfect way for team members and staff to get to know each other a little better, as well as mingling with other businesses from the area, whilst also taking part in something meaningful. “I was really nervous about taking part in Sleep Out,” Debbie admits. “I worried I wouldn’t know anyone on the night and I don’t even like camping, let alone sleeping on a cold hard floor! I needn’t have worried though because the night itself was amazing. Everyone was so friendly and I met lots of new people, both from the Bank and from other organisations. I now have loads more connections.”

The social aspect of the evening was something that Mike also initially felt apprehensive about, but said he “soon found someone I knew and was introduced to lots of new people.” Plus, there was a lot to take in at the event, so there was never a dull moment: “It was a very relaxed, vibrant atmosphere with live music and talks by guest speakers.”

The night’s sleep is perhaps not as fun as the activities that precede it. But that’s what we’re all there for: to raise awareness of what young homeless people are forced to deal with every night, which often comes with an appreciation of our own fortunate circumstances. “The following morning I saw so many homeless people on my way to work that it made whole the experience even more real,” Debbie adds. Mike concurs: “I had a new appreciation for the people I see struggling on the streets every day and an understanding of why Centrepoint is so important. That’s why I signed up to take part again this year.”

The great thing about Sleep Out, as Debbie says, is that you don’t need experience or training to take part, so anyone can get involved: “If I can sleep out for a night on a cold floor and raise money to help vulnerable young people, anyone can - and it’s something we can do together, making it ideal for our co-operative colleagues.”

And it’s all these reasons combined as to why we all take part in the annual event – Lesley sums it up pretty well when she says “It’s an experience that many of us have carried with us and it’s why this many of our colleagues, myself included, are taking part for the third year in a row. We’re looking forward to making a difference together.”