In 2017 and 2018, there will be no Sleepout at St Albans Abbey.
The extensive works currently underway at St Albans Abbey in connection with creating new welcome facilities and presentations for Alban, Britain’s First Saint, mean that a large marquee covers a significant portion of the south churchyard where much of the Sleepout takes place. The Sleepout Committee has taken the difficult decision that without that space, it would be unwise to go ahead.
Fittingly, 2016 was a bumper year for Sleepout. Brian Peyton, Abbey Sleep out Coordinator, reports last year`s Sleep out was another record breaker. Brian says “I am delighted that a new record of over £62,000 was raised last December by 335 people taking part in our sponsored event in support of eleven homeless charities in the St Albans Diocese. This brings the total raised since the event began in 1993 to over £680,000”.
Alternatives in 2017 and 18
There will be Sleepouts held in St Albans by a coalition of charities – Centre 33, Emmaus, Herts Young Homeless, Open Door. See https://www.stalbanssleepout.org.uk
DENS – Dacorum Emergency Night Shelter is holding a Sleepout in Hemel Hempstead:
The history of Sleepout at St Albans Abbey
Sleepout at St Albans Abbey was started by The Revd (now The Ven) Paul Hackwood when he was social responsibility adviser to the Diocese of St Albans in the 1990s and has gone from strength to strength since then.
It is a ‘joint venture’ between St Albans Abbey and the Diocese who between them create an event in which homeless charities based in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Luton and Barnet can take part. The charities encourage their supporters to get sponsorship to sleep out for a night under the stars which gives people a taste of what homeless people experience as well as raising funds. The Abbey makes an area available in its grounds where supporters pitch camp for the night, taking up temporary residence in an assortment of cardboard boxes, survival bags and plastic sheets. These are ranged around the walls of the Abbey in small (and not so small) huddles. There is a great atmosphere of camaraderie, although there is a also a strict ‘lights out’ time after which talking, singing, playing music and other noise is frowned upon.
The numbers of sponsored supporters varies a bit from year to year, but can be as many as 400 and the annual total raised is usually above £40,000, sometimes over £50,000.
Though this sounds like a lot of money and it does represent tremendous generosity from donors as well as the great commitment of the sleepers, it doesn’t go very far as the scale of homelessness and rough sleeping is increasing in our society. This is nowhere made plainer that from the simple fact that whereas there were six local charities that took part in the early days of Sleepout, there are now often ten or twelve – this year there are eleven.