My Big Sleep Out at home experience

Kate Martin, who worked as fundraising manager at Launchpad, took part in the Big Sleep Out at home in her garden in 2020. She shared her experience of the night:

“So tonight was the night! We were going to sleep out in the garden to help prevent homelessness in Reading. It seemed like such a small thing to do so why did it feel like such a big deal?

“My friend, Sarah, came round to set up early and we started to tape our make shift ground sheet made out of blue bin liners and tape. Thanks Wokingham Borough Council lol! Next, a couple of layers of cardboard (that I had been collecting for a few weeks) to pad our floor so we would have something soft between us and the damp grassy floor. We spent a good couple of hours planning and creating our cardboard homes for the night and dividing the boxes up equally so we had the same quantity.

“At 6pm, watched all the video content that streamed via Facebook Live (and was later put on YouTube). I had seen it so many times before the event but wanted to immerse myself in the experience. We took part in the meal challenge and the quiz, and finished the night listening to Chris Tarrant reading us a bed time story.

“We carried our boxes outside onto our flooring we had so lovingly created earlier and set down for the night. I had two pairs of socks on, leggings, trousers, a base layer top, a hoody, a Launchpad beanie, gloves etc. and I was finally ready to get into my sleeping bag and slide into my cardboard box. I was looking forward to the night but I soon realised that the box was super restrictive. Apparently, I like to move a lot when I sleep and my sleeping position is a lot more sprawled out than I thought! Even getting in and out of the box was a bit tricky and I didn’t want to break it at all.

“I wasn’t cold but I wasn’t warm either and there was a street light in my peripheral vision which was going to bug me too. Also our resident cat had pooed by our bed for the night so we relocated to a less smelly spot. Sarah and I laughed a lot about the box, it’s size and the craziness of what we were doing but then we started to think about people who didn’t have a choice. People who would be forced to do this night after night – and we became a lot more reflective and sombre. I started to question every decision I had made in my life and the circumstances that had got me to where I am today.

“I had experienced loss pretty early on with my mother dying when I was 14, the decision to move to Reading and study, the decision to leave university and go back as a mature student, broken relationships, my career path etc. You could really spiral down that rabbit hole and I knew that a lot of where I am now is down to sheer luck.

“Then I started to feel super grateful. This was only one night and I was really glad- for my friends Sarah and Iain who had agreed (after being gently persuaded) to take part with me so I wasn’t alone. So many people had donated to my fundraising page – friends, family and heaps of anonymous donors – and I really did feel supported. I felt so lucky. We had a warm home and toilet to use throughout the night. I knew in the morning it would be over, I could move inside, go have a nap in my warm and cosy double bed. I could have a hot shower and lounge around all day in front of the TV.

“We must have slept a bit because at 6.45am we moved inside and jumped into bed to watch the last Facebook Live video which was broadcast at 7am to say good morning to everyone who took part. We had done it, and I felt super proud of everyone who had taken part and made this event happen. I raised over £1,500 in the end and I was definitely grateful for my bed that night.”

This year’s Big Sleep Out at home raises money for local people facing pandemic-related homelessness – for more information or to sign up, visit out Big Sleep Out at home page.

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