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YMCA calls on businesses to join Sleep Easy campaign to highlight homelessness

The youth charity, which has worked in Milton Keynes for more than 30 years, is hosting a Sleep Easy fundraiser at the intu shopping centre.

Bedfordshire’s Sleep Easy event is taking place in Luton for the first time, at The Mall shopping centre.

 The event will see participants sleep on the street for an evening to not only raise the much-needed funds for the new YMCA MK campus due to open in September but also increase awareness of the youth homelessness issue. 

In Luton the event will be hosted both indoors and outdoors with adults, families and business teams invited to sleep outside on The Mall’s car park and young people’s organisations including guides, scouts, cadets and schools having exclusive use of the area around Central Square inside The Mall.

Milton Keynes was recently named the youth homeless capital of the UK, according to an article written by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. YMCA MK is doing all it can to raise awareness and tackle this issue head on. Its new campus will provide accommodation, support and well-being services to 199 local young people.

YMCA MK chief executive Simon Green said: “Since we lost our government funding last year we know that, without the support of local businesses and local people, we would be unable to continue our services and many more young people would be sleeping on the streets and have less options of realising their potential. 

“We are calling on the local community, old and young, to sign up to the YMCA MK Sleep Easy to help us support young people in our services today and into the future. One night sleeping rough can make a lifetime difference.”

YMCA MK has hosted Sleep Easy nights since 2016 and has raised a total of £29,000 from this event in that time. Money brought in has helped YMCA MK, which works with around 300 people each year, provide accommodation, support services and training to its residents. 

The annual YMCA Bedfordshire SleepEasy Event has a £10 fee per person to participate and all those taking part are asked to raise sponsorship funds too. Youth group leaders can attend for free.

All of the fee and sponsorship money raised will go directly to YMCA Bedfordshire and be focused on helping and supporting people of all ages in Luton who rely on them for accommodation. This accommodation also provides clients with the support and help they need to build the skills required to successfully move into their own homes one day.

In the government’s annual rough sleeper count for 2017/18, Luton was listed fifth in the top ten highest local authority rough sleeper counts and estimates within England, and has done for the previous few years. Luton’s count was 87 people, a 14% rise from the previous year.

YMCA Bedfordshire has been helping the homeless for 30 years but expanded into Luton only three years ago, opening its 78-bed housing project Midland House. Chief executive Paul Hunt said: “When The Mall offered us their support and venue for SleepEasy 2019 we were over the moon. Holding this event in what is the very heart of Luton enables us to raise awareness and help people gain a better understanding of the lives and experiences of those who become homeless.

“Unfortunately this is still a growing social issue but we are happy to be in Luton and addressing it as part of the wide network of organisations here.”

The Mall’s marketing manager Lavinia Douglass said: “The funds raised from the SleepEasy event are vital to address the issue of homelessness and we are pleased to be able to provide the perfect venue to make this happen”.

Fergus McLardy, project manager at Luton BID, added:  "Homelessness is a real issue and one that Luton BID wishes to support our partners in tackling. For those taking part it will be a brief insight into what it’s like to sleep rough, something many face as a reality every day.

"Raising awareness and money so that more people can be helped off of the street is what this event is all about. Luton BID is supporting ‘SleepEasy’ because promoting a safe and accessible environment in the town centre is one of our priorities." 

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