The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Sleepout supports YMCA Norfolk homeless work 

Over 50 supporters and residents from YMCA Norfolk braved the cold to sleep under the stars in Norwich on Saturday night to raise money for the Christian charity and its work with homeless young people across the county. Keith Morris reports.

Groups from St Thomas church, the People’s Picnic and Brown & Co estate agents and the YMCA Life Ready project in Yarmouth mingled with the chairman of Norfolk County Council, the Sheriff of Norwich and residents from YMCA Norfolk in the grounds of Norwich High School for Girls in the city.
As well as making shelters from cardboard boxes, the participants also played some team-building games, before settling down for the night.
SE15CharlieSmith450Nick Dunn from Brown & Co said: “There are lots of people out there for whom this is a reality every night, not knowing what is going to happen to them. So anything which can raise awareness for the great work which the YMCA does is marvellous.”
Brian Hannah, chairman of Norfolk County Council, said: “The work of the YMCA is quite incredible. I have seen first hand the work they do and the facilities they have to take young people in and give them a step on to improve their lives.”
William Armstrong, Sheriff of Norwich, said: “We are aiming to raise funds but also raise awareness of a growing problem that really should scandalise us all - that there are youngsters in Norwich and Norfolk who are living rough, without shelter and have been deprived of the basic right to a home. This is a matter of serious injustice and something that we should all address and face up to.”
Former YMCA resident, Simon Wiseman, from Yarmouth: “I was housed by the YMCA. As I worked through it, I became a peer mentor and try to help people who are in the same position as I was. I am doing this to help people who are in the same situation as I was – people who often have a problem with drugs or with their families.”
Billie Fox, who has been a YMCA Norfolk resident twice and is now a peer mentor, said: “I got so much help myself from the YMCA and I am so much a better person that I was. I just want to give back and it is so great to see all of these people here supporting the YMCA. I wouldn’t be here now if it was not for the YMCA, I would not be back in touch with my family and have all the support I need.”
Tim Sweeting, YMCA Norfolk chief executive, said: “There were lots of bleary-eyed people who did not get as much sleep as they though they would.  Many of them were left impacted by the experience and the stories they heard on the night about young people speaking about being homeless. Last year YMCA Norfolk helped over 620 young people but there were a further 200 who we did not have the capacity to help. Homelessness is a significant issue in our county today and we believe it is wrong that any young person should experience it.”
All funds raised from the event will go towards the work of YMCA Norfolk, including supported accommodation provided to over 260 young people every night who might otherwise be homeless.
You can see more pictures from the Sleep Easy event at
For more information visit: www.ymcanorfolk.org/event/sleepeasy/ 
Pictured top taking part in the YMCA Sleep Easy is Sheriff of Norwich William Armstrong and, above, Charlie Smith YMCA Norfolk young health champions project worker. Pictures by Julia Holland.

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