A Hard Night At The YMCA Exeter Sleep Easy

A Hard Night At The YMCA Exeter Sleep Easy

By Stella Nicholls

Photo provided by YMCA Exeter

The term ‘Sleep easy’ was a contradiction in terms, I found, on the night that I slept rough for YMCA Exeter in Barnfield Crescent, for neither did I sleep nor find it easy.

In fact, the longer the night wore on, the more I realised how difficult it would be to maintain a job, or any semblance of normal life if you had to sleep rough every night. 

The ground was hard and unforgiving and eventually, I could feel every bone in my body rebelling against the fact that I was not lying on my usual memory foamed mattress.

I had the joy of sharing the night with my husband, Llew Nicholls, who fell into a snoring slumber in no time, it seemed, and left me alone, bored and slightly scared.  Not that we had much to be scared about really, as the YMCA patrolled and took care of us, but this happened to be the night that the UK was hit by gale force winds and I had visions of being hit by a log or errant debris.  After all, stranger things have happened.

Luckily, we ended the night unscathed by any flying objects, except dust.  I found that I was covered in a layer of it as I climbed out of my sleeping bag. I had the time to do a lot of thinking as I lay there in the semi darkness (a sensor light just above us had sporadically switched on and off all night) and I felt humbled by the thought that for some people, sleeping rough, is preferable to their current circumstances.  I shudder at the thought. 

Llew and I were soon guzzling down hot coffee and a bacon bap at the end of our tumultuous night, after we had rolled up our sleeping bags and disposed of our damp cardboard.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if every homeless person, could roll up their sleeping bags and ‘go home’? 

The YMCA Exeter has raised over £14,000 with this year’s Sleep Easy and donations are still being taken. You can donate to Stella or Llew or on the JustGiving page.

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