Long time support of the Foundation Wilf Marshall has always enjoyed our Big Ibrox Sleep Out event, but after doing the Sleep Out From Home, his insight into the lives of the street homeless moved him to write a blog about the experience.
Read on below to hear how Wilf spent the night alone in a deserted yard, with only some cardboard and a sleeping bag for warmth, and how it changed his understanding of the challenges homeless people face night after night.
Back in the autumn of 2015 the Rangers Charity Foundation announced it was hosting a “sleep out” at Ibrox.
Having done a few of their events before my interest was immediate, and upon further investigation the opportunity to spend a night with other Bears inside the magnificent Ibrox Stadium while hopefully raising a few quid to help the homeless was one I wasn’t going to pass up.
I have to admit the chance to spend a considerable length of time inside The Stadium was the selling point for me. The helping the homeless bit was simply a by product of that…..after all it’d be another True Blue Hero medal, presented by a player at another event within my favourite place early in the New Year.
That initial sleepout was everything I expected it to be as I spent almost the entire night awake talking Rangers to anyone that would listen, after spending as long as I could in my favourite room on earth…Our Trophy Room really is something else… but not really sleeping out which was the whole point of the event.
Still a few pounds had been raised so I guess it was job done.
"In subsequent years the sleepout grew and grew as more and more Bears and Bearettes did their bit to assist the work of the RCF in collaboration with local homeless charities, most notably the Glasgow City Mission, who have been able to keep their winter night shelter open an entire month longer than normal each of the last few years entirely as a result of the sleepout at Ibrox and the funds raised by those participating."
It has also benefitted from the kind donation of a majority of the sleeping bags used by those sleeping out at the events….three or four “selling out” every winter as the Rangers support really embraced the idea, most like myself doubtless initially drawn to the idea by the lure of an overnighter at an empty Ibrox.
The opportunity of an night trackside may be the hook but after a few hours, whether getting a sleep or – like my initial participation – sitting up gazing at the magnificence of the surroundings, the realisation that some people have to spend every night outside hits you like an express train.
We’ve chosen to do this.
We’ve had soup and sandwiches before heading trackside.
We’re in the company of others in a controlled environment.
We’re heading back inside for a slap up cooked breakfast before heading home for a hot shower or bath, the arms of loved ones and a warm bed.
All luxuries the genuinely homeless don’t have.
"For me the realisation that some people have to sleep outside on a nightly basis was a real wake up call."
They don’t get soup and sandwiches.
They don’t generally have the company of others.
They don’t wake up to a fry up.
They’ve got a day on the streets ahead not a warm bath to look forward to, before doing it all again night after night.
The yearly sleepout at Ibrox really has become a must do for many, which obviously raises a considerable sum for the charities involved.
Then 2020 happened.
The Covid-19 pandemic put the block on events that brings folk together. That’ll be that then.
No night gazing at the blue seats.
No much needed cash to help those that need it most, at a time its probably needed more than ever.
Then the Charity Foundation announce the 2020 version of the sleepout will happen… from home to comply with covid restrictions.
“Sign up and sleep somewhere you normally wouldn’t – your garden, the shed, garage even the bath!”
So sleepout number 6 it is. But there’s a problem. I don’t have a garden. Or a shed. Or a garage. Yeah I’ve got a bath but homeless folk don’t generally sleep inside a house. That’s the whole point.
The Foundation are thinking outside the box so I need to as well.
My workplace has a huge yard, part of it covered by a large canopy. It wouldn’t be totally true to life given it’s enclosed behind a fence and a locked gate and covered by cctv but it’s as realistic as I can make it, and only slightly bending the rules.
"The previous sleepouts in the company of others have been eye opening and very humbling. Doing this one alone was on a totally different level."
After watching the online pre sleepout show provided by the Foundation off to work I went – well wrapped up and sporting the lovely RCF bobble hat we were all sent. It had been sub zero the previous night so I wasn’t taking anything for granted.
"Buckshee cardboard down and sleeping bag laid out I was set for a lonely night as close to actually being homeless as I truly hope I ever get. And was I grateful of the canopy as the rain battered down incessantly almost all night."
Trying to sleep in a random doorway in an empty yard while the rain fell all around wasn’t an experience I’d wish on anyone. At least when I got up I could get in my car,drive home and get on with my life, warm and safe. Homeless people don’t have that luxury ….a luxury we all take for granted.
God willing I’ll continue to support the sleepouts put on by the Foundation in the coming years, pandemic allowing back at Ibrox in good company.
"However I’ll never ever forget last Friday night when I was alone in a dingy doorway listening to the rain."
The main purpose of these events is to raise cash to help those that need it.
All I did was sleep outside, it’s the enormous generosity of everyone that sponsored my efforts that made it the success it was. Thank you all.