SLEEPING ROUGH: YMCA Teesdale’s operations director Rachel Dyne and volunteer Julian Taylor are trying to raise awareness of youth homelessness
SLEEPING ROUGH: YMCA Teesdale’s operations director Rachel Dyne and volunteer Julian Taylor are trying to raise awareness of youth homelessness

PEOPLE in Teesdale are being asked to give up their home comforts and sleep rough for the night to help raise awareness of youth homelessness.

YMCA Teesdale is calling on residents to brave the elements and spend the night in a cardboard box at St Mary’s Church car park in Barnard Castle next Friday, March 16.

The group is one of several YMCAs across the country to be joining forces to raise awareness of youth homelessness during the national YMCA Sleep Easy Week, which runs from March 9 to March 16.

YMCA Teesdale’s operations director, Rachel Dyne, is helping to organise the event in the town with volunteer Julian Taylor.

Ms Dyne, who has taken part in the event before, said: “This is the first year Teesdale YMCA has done it and it is purely down to Julian’s enthusiasm to see it happen. It is a great event to take part in. If you get sleep you are lucky. I think I averaged about two and a half hours sleep in the three times I did it with Romford YMCA.”

As the number of rough sleepers of all ages continues to rise and pressures mount on the housing market, it is hoped that this experience will help to raise money for YMCA Teesdale to support youth work and research into sofa surfing in the area.

The organisation’s long-term goal is to provide accommodation to those in need.

Ms Dyne said: “Sleeping rough does not have to be sleeping on the streets or in doorways, it is sofa surfing too.

“It is not knowing where you are going to be the next night.

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“You have the pressure of finding somewhere everyday. We know for young people in Teesdale, it is sofa surfing which is more likely to be happening. It does happen, you just can’t see it.

“We know rural homelessness is on the rise. It has gone up three-fold since the welfare reforms came into play. When you are sofa surfing you might not class yourself as homeless.

“The funds raised will help support our youth work which is about helping young people to make positive choices in their lives so that they don’t end up in this situation.”

Town mayor Cllr Sandra Moorhouse will open the fundraising event at 7pm and has offered to serve homemade soup to participants who will include representatives from Hewitts Solicitors, which is part-sponsoring the night.

Bacon buns will be served for breakfast on Saturday morning at about 6am along with hot drinks which are included in the registration fee.

Those taking part are urged to come prepared. Items on a suggested kit list include a sleeping bag, blankets, an old piece of carpet or tarpaulin for if it rains and camping mats. There will also be a competition during the night for the best decorated cardboard box.

Ms Dyne added: “We are calling on the local community, old and young, to sign up to our Sleep Easy event to help us support young people in our services today and into the future. One night out can make a lifetime of difference.”

Registration costs £10. Those taking park who raise £100 will have their entry fee refunded on the night. No alcohol is allowed on site. To get involved call 01833 695780 or email julian@ymcateesdale.org.uk.