On Friday 21st April calfordseaden’s Anna Keys, along with the other members of the RICS Matrics UK Board, slept rough on the streets of Westminster to raise funds for charity CRASH. This is how Anna and the team got on…
“We spent the day leading up to our rough sleeping challenge at a RICS Matrics board meeting which finished at 5.30pm. We were guided to our sleeping quarters for the evening which was the RICS car park and is so small it only has space for 2 cars! It is also home to Michel Roux Jr’s restaurant, Roux, bins! So as you can imagine, it was rather smelly!
Our challenge would start at 7pm and last for 12 hours. I do need to add a disclaimer at this point: the RICS provided us with a sandwich lunch at the board meeting and as we had an evening event they also provided us with a dinner; not really in keeping with the true homelessness experience I know, but I’m sure you can all forgive us. We ate at Wagamammas on Victoria Street, enjoying a hot meal and then made our way back to ‘our bedroom’ for the evening.
Within an hour of starting the challenge the initial excitement died down and we actually started to get a little tired and bored. Don’t forget, we had just had a full day of heavy discussions and although we enjoy each other’s company and are friends, we are friends on a professional platform and may not have very much in common outside of work and surveying. Naturally we split into smaller groups and discussed favourite books and good films, although I’m not sure Beauty and the Beast was at the top of many lists!
The temperature dropped pretty quickly when the sun went down and we added more layers to try and keep warm. But then the stark reality of lack of toilet facilities hit. Thankfully the RICS had booked a hotel room for us to use the facilities (as the hotel would not allow us to use their toilets) but the hotel was still a 20 minute walk away from where we were sleeping. It begged the question, where do the homeless actually go? Public toilets can cost money and are usually closed at night. Luckily we were able to leave our belongings knowing they would be safe with the group, whereas a homeless person would have to take all their belongings with them or hope they would still be there when they got back.
As the night wore on we started to lay out our cardboard ‘beds’ and sleeping bags, but had to wait until Roux had closed and all guests and staff had left for the evening before we could lie down and try to get some sleep. Once the cleaners left the restaurant at around 2am, we moved the bins around the group to create a ‘safe’ sleeping area and after another toilet trip, we started to settle down.
My night consisted of a chorus of gentle snoring and Big Ben cruelly reminding me every 15 mins that I hadn’t slept and the 4am toilet trip wasn’t a task I enjoyed. I then woke up to one of our group exclaiming: “Oh and we’ve been robbed!” Someone had stolen one of the groups’ pair of trainers and replaced them with their own! This is the harsh reality homeless people have to face every day and night they spend on the streets.
All in all it wasn’t a terrible experience for us; we had safety in numbers and were relatively comfortable but it certainly hit home as to what life could be like for a homeless person.
We raised over £7,000 for CRASH which will go towards putting programmes in place to assist the homeless and preventing future homelessness. Thank you for all your kind support and donations!