The night I was homeless in Edinburgh
Okay so maybe not "homeless" but on Thursday the 15th December I joined 250 other CEOs from across Scotland to sleep out in Charlotte Square Edinburgh to help raise money for the charity Social Bite as they battle to end homelessness across Scotland.
The charity, set up by the inspirational Josh Littlejohn, is now taking things one step further by building a village for the homeless on a piece of land in Granton, Edinburgh, donated by the council. The blue print is in place and the plans are to build a safe and supportive environment for up to 20 people to live in for around 12 - 15 months.
When asked to take part by Josh I jumped at the chance - anything to help raise awareness of what they were doing.
As Thursday approached and the realisation started to hit, I wondered what I had honestly let myself in for. I was nervous, slightly scared and excited all at the same time.
The night itself was very well organised. Josh and his team of helpers provided us with coffee, tea and mince pies throughout the night. Security guards circled the square to ensure our safety. We even had some live entertainment up until 11.30pm. Not exactly hard I can hear you say? Well no. And certainly not when 3 former homeless guys who now all work for Social Bite got up on stage and told us their story. All very humbling whilst I stood there in my Rab jacket and M&S thermals, hugging a warm cup of coffee.
i think the realisation hit most around 3am when the temperature dropped and it started to rain. As a seasoned insomniac I knew sleep was unlikely for me, but I still huddled down inside my sleeping bag which was inside my bivvy bag (for those that don't know what a bivvy bag is - it was like being inside a very large crisp packet - keeps out the rain but god did it make a noise every time you moved).
What I noticed the most? The noise. It was constant - the noise of people, cars, ambulances, rubbish trucks - it was relentless. It never stoped. How anyone sleeping rough would ever get a full nights sleep is beyond me. We were lucky enough to feel safe - we knew we were being watched and cared for whilst we slept, so huddling down inside your sleeping bag you didn't feel scared or vulnerable.
When I knew that lying there trying to sleep was fruitless, I got up and went for a walk, had coffee with the St Johns Ambulance staff and local police, as well as joining some of the other participants who preferred to sit around chatting to while away the hours.
As 7am approached and the First Minister came across to personally thank us all for taking part, and offering to hand out bacon rolls to everyone, i started to feel guilty. Since 5am, I had been thinking to myself "Only 2 hours to go" Then i knew i would go home to a shower, hot food and a comfortable bed. Homeless people don't have that luxury. They live this day in day out. I was exhausted after one night and knew i needed sleep to be able to function properly at work. Imagine if that was my life every day?
There were a lot of cynics who commented on what we were doing and that it was all a publicity stunt. Rich folk making a token gesture, the First Minister coming to serve breakfast. Well so what if it was? If it gets more people talking about this issue and raises over half a million in the process then I'm proud to have taken part.
We are still raising money until Christmas Eve so you can still donate to my page here.