What’s it like to be homeless on the streets of Worksop?

Richard Whall does his best to get cosy on the streets of Worksop
Richard Whall does his best to get cosy on the streets of Worksop

Blistering cold, sodden sleeping bags and danger lurking in the shadows.

These are just some of the gruelling obstacles that two brave volunteers had to face when they “slept rough” in Worksop one stormy night to raise funds and awareness for homelessness charity Hope Services.

Richard Whall and Rob Pownall donned several layers of clothing for their 12-hour endeavour, but thse offered little protection from several hours of high winds and rain that ensued.

Richard, a businessman and Hope trustee, has been involved with Hope for six years- but said nothing could have prepared for him for a “miserable” night in the open.

“There are so many things you wouldn’t normally think about, not just the cold and pouring rain you have to contend with,” said Richard.

“There’s the constant noise of traffic, the incessant ‘dong’ of the town’s clock hour upon hour, the fact you’re putting your safety at serious risk.

“All these things combined make it impossible to rest, let alone sleep.

“I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a family to go back to, and a warm house where I can dry out my wet clothes and sleeping bag.

“It’s amazing how many people don’t. They find themselves in a horrible situation after developing an addiction, being thrown out or after a break up. It doesn’t really matter, nobody deserves it.

“It could happen to you or me, regardless of how successful you are. The fact is we are only two or three decisions away from being homeless.”

Based on Queen Street, Hope Services celebrated its 20 years of battling against homelessness this year.

Its hostel offers beds, showers, laundry facilities, a communal area and garden.

People who come to Hope for help are awarded a room for up to 14 days are provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner and have access to one-on-one sessions with a support worker.

A further six studio flats were recently installed at the hostel, which will meet increasing demand for accommodation for homeless families in the area.

It’s taken a “wake up call” to fully appreciate just how much the team at Hope do to help, Richard and Rob have both admitted.

Rob said: “You can have all the empathy in the world for someone, but until you take a walk in their shoes you will just never be able to understand.

“Until midnight, I thought I was doing pretty well. But then the heavens opened and I just sat there for the next six hours, miserable and soaking wet.

“As the night went on, I started to feel very vulnerable and unsafe. It’s not just the fact that people are walking past- your mind starts to play tricks on you, things start moving in the shadows.

“I didn’t get a wink of sleep, and I cannot imagine what it must be like for the people who have to do this night on night. It had made me appreciate the fantastic work that Hope does even more.

“I retired in 2010 and was looking for something I could contribute to. I’m really glad I decided to choose Hope.”

The duo’s feat raised an impressive £1,100 for Hope, and the funds are needed now more than ever- the charity recently suffered £20,000 in funding cuts.

As part of 20 years supporting those in crisis, Hope’s CEO Alan Diggles is also undertaking a Coast-to-Coast walk, setting out on May 21.

From the Irish to the North Sea, across the backbone of England, it’s a 192 mile trek in 12 days.

Alan said; “My target is to raise awareness of homelessness, which has doubled in the last 3 years.

“And to help us raise over £1,000 to tackle rough sleeping, which has increased by 1/3rd in the last year alone.”

Want to help? You can donate to Hope’s Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/hopecs or text text HOPC24 with your chosen amount to 70070.

For more information on volunteering, visit www.hopeservices.org.uk.