Local businesses, the army and sporting figures came together for a sleepout in Leamington at weekend in support of the region’s homeless community.
Wasps first-teamer Alex Rieder and Club Academy players Will Porter, Josh Fenner and James Seabrook along with Head of Academy Physio Kat Lenan, were among the group who played a part in the 12-hour sleep out at Leamington Railway Station last Friday.
The sleepout, which saw more than 80 people take part, was organised by the Helping Hands Community Project – a charity that supports vulnerable people across the Warwick district.
The #bigsleepout19, which is now in its fourth year, was hailed a success by organiser Lianne Kirkman who wanted this year’s event to recreate the reality of being homeless as closely as possible.
She said: “We kept this year’s sleepout destination a tight secret right up until the night itself to open people’s eyes to the fact that homeless people don’t often know where their next destination is going to be.
“All that people taking part had to their name for the night was a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard.
“We divided participants up into four different groups, each of which included somebody who had experienced homelessness who told their stories to the group, which really hit home with people.
“We’ve seen first-hand that homelessness can come out of the blue, whether it is losing a job, the breakdown of a marriage, and can also be caused by mental health issues or drug addiction.
“Homelessness is unfortunately very much on the rise, especially with the changes to universal credit piling the pressure on many families.
“There’s a story behind every person living on the streets, many of whom are just searching for a bit of help and support to get back on their feet which is what Helping Hands is all about.
“Hopefully sleepouts such as this will make more people aware of this.”
Other supporters on the night alongside Wasps included Thwaites Dumpers, BID Leamington, Greggs, Tesco, Pancho Catering, Warwickshire Ambulance Association, Leading Edge, KindSnacks, local musicians who were busking at the venue throughout the evening; and Chiltern Rail and Leamington Train Station.
Deirdre Fitzhugh, Director at Wasps Community Foundation, said: “A lot of the players know about the great work that goes on to help vulnerable people in Leamington, from first-team player Rob Miller, who regularly helps out at Helping Hands’ soup kitchen in his spare time.
“That’s why some of the boys were keen to come out and find out more about the work that is done and the people who are benefiting from Helping Hands’ work.
“We are also supporting Helping Hands by asking Wasps fans to donate their old replica Wasps shirts at the Club Shop at Ricoh Arena between now and Saturday February 23 when we take on Sale Sharks – donors will receive a discounted replica shirt in return with the old jerseys donated to Helping Hands so they can pass them to those who need fresh, clean clothes.”