LAUNCHPAD’S virtual event, Big Sleep Out at home, saw 190 people from across Berkshire sleep in their garden on Saturday 10 October, to mark World Homeless Day and raise a total of £50,000 to prevent homelessness in Reading – double the event’s fundraising target of £25,000!
Instead of cancelling the much-loved annual fundraiser, the charity adapted the Big Sleep Out to ensure it was COVID-safe and asked supporters to swap their comfortable beds for sleeping in their garden – all to help raise £25,000 so Launchpad can continue ensuring vulnerable people in Reading don’t lose their home and spend night-after-night on the streets.
On the night, participants enjoyed a packed programme of information and entertainment via Facebook Live from 6pm – which included videos from Launchpad clients who were at risk of losing their home; a cardboard den building segment with Launchpad patron Matt Allwright; a quiz with BBC radio broadcaster Michelle ‘Babs’ Jordan; a cook-a-long with Caversham’s Vegivores restaurant; and a bedtime story read by broadcaster Chris Tarrant. Participants then bedded down before tuning back in at 7am for a morning message from the fundraising team at Launchpad.
As Launchpad was forced to move the event online for 2020, the individuals, couples, families, businesses, schools and community groups taking part had access to downloadable fundraising resources on the charity’s website – such as printable posters, social media images and instructions on how to set up a JustGiving page – and were asked to raise a minimum of £250. The event’s top fundraisers are Steve Scrace and David Lewis, who smashed their target and raised £2,498.85 and £1,750.33 respectively.
Now in its 15th year, the Big Sleep Out has raised a total of £300,000 to support Launchpad’s work providing vital information and support for individuals, couples and families who are at risk of losing their home. This includes those who are victims of domestic abuse, army veterans, and people leaving care or prison with nowhere to go; those who struggle with numeracy and literacy and can’t access the benefits system to pay rent; and people battling issues such as addiction, debt management and poor mental health. The charity offers a drop-in service; housing-related legal advice; and works with clients to stop a housing problem becoming a crisis, which includes providing tailored support plans for periods of three to six months to achieve long-term independence and stability.
Kirsti Wilson, Head of Marketing and Fundraising at Launchpad, said:
“We didn’t want COVID-19 to put a stop to the Big Sleep Out but it was a risk hosting the event entirely online after we had such success at the Reading Abbey Ruins in 2019. But once again the people of Reading and our supporters across Berkshire got behind Launchpad. We are bowled over by just how many people took part and by the incredible fundraising total, which exceeded our expectations. It is truly humbling that our community continue to support vulnerable people at a time that is so difficult for everyone.
“Despite the physical distance, there was a real feeling of togetherness on the night of the Big Sleep Out at home – with participants discussing their experiences and sharing photos from their back gardens on social media. While the event doesn’t aim to replicate homelessness, it does give a brief insight into some of the things you might experience if you were sleeping rough and many people taking part were shocked at the cold temperatures and uncomfortable bed – and came away with a greater understanding of what many of our clients may face.”
Launchpad’s next fundraising event would have been Carols by Candlelight, previously held at Reading Minster – but due to continued uncertainty around large-scale events, the service has been cancelled. Launchpad is planning a programme of events for 2021. For more information about Launchpad, or to donate, please visit: https://www.launchpadreading.org.uk