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University of Sussex students and staff moved to take action for city’s homeless

University of Sussex Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Students Kelly Coate

Members of the University of Sussex Women's Lacrosse team and Help the Homeless Society who have recently taken part in fundraising efforts for homeless charities.

Students and staff at the University of Sussex are braving the elements to help raise funds and awareness about the growing issue of homelessness in Brighton and Hove.

Around three dozen University of Sussex students have already raised more than £2,300 between them for homeless services after spending the night under the stars and on the tarmac.

Now the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, Kelly Coate, is among three Sussex staff preparing for the same challenge when they take part in the CEO Spring Sleepout outside the i360 on Saturday 6 April.

Professor Coate is set to be joined by her PA Helen Curtis and the University’s Director of Library Services Jane Harvell as well as senior management from more than a dozen different Brighton and Hove-based organisations and companies for the fundraiser in aid of the four charities being supported by Cllr Dee Simson’s year as Brighton and Hove mayor.

Participants are being allowed only a sleeping bag, pillow and cardboard sheet for comfort for the fundraising challenge in which they will be exposed to the elements from 8pm to 8am.

Professor Coate said she was motivated to take part in the challenge by the sad sight of the increasingly visible community of rough sleepers in the city she has called home for six years, plus the passion she has seen from Sussex students determined to do something to help tackle the growing issue.

She said: “The number of homeless people in Brighton and Hove has increased noticeably in recent years and actually increased quite a lot very recently. You feel very helpless when you’re walking past in parts of Brighton when there’s lots of homeless people in a small area and you can’t help everyone.

“I also know how important it is to the students at Sussex. The students have told us it’s among their priorities and I know that students are actively involved in supporting homeless charities themselves.

“Brighton has such a great community spirit. I see a lot of people helping, stopping, talking to homeless people, offering them food but unfortunately it’s not enough and we need to do more. That moment of kindness is great in itself but it does not solve the issue.

“That’s why I want to raise money for the charities that will be able to run the structures that can support them for a lot longer.”

On Thursday 21 March, 24 members of the Sussex Lacrosse Women’s team created a camp in Library Square of the University of Sussex campus to take part in their own sleep out raising money for YMCA Downslink Group.

It is just the latest fundraising initiative from the sports team which includes bake sales, karaoke nights and running the Brighton half marathon for a number of charities close to team members’ hearts including the Clock Tower Sanctuary and MIND.

This time around the society has raised more than £1,300 from their sleep out as well as donating ten sleeping bags and numerous bags of food to YMCA Downslink Group.

Danielle Scammell, Lacrosse Society at the University of Sussex, said: “The main reason we wanted to get involved is that we all see homeless people on a daily basis in Brighton and it really hits home that a lot of them are the same age or younger than us.

“Personally I always feel guilty that I am fortunate enough to be living and getting my education in Brighton and yet these people have nothing. I think we felt as a team that it was about time that we tried to give something back and help out in any way we can.

“Sleeping rough, just for one night in the safety of campus and with all our friends around us for support and warmth, really opened our eyes about the hardship rough sleepers have to endure on a daily basis.”

The following night (Friday 22 March), it was the turn of 17 members of the Help The Homeless Society at the University of Sussex to hit the street for a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.

Help the Homeless members were participating for the second time in two years in the official YMCA Downslink Sleep Easy event held in the grounds of BHASVIC – making it a record number of Sussex students taking part in the annual event.

The society was set up in September 2017 by students who had moved down to Brighton and who were shocked and saddened by the extent of the city’s homelessness population, which is one of the largest in the country.

Since its foundation, the society has assisted a number of homelessness-related charities by providing them with volunteers for street collections and charity coffee mornings as well as organising the Christmas shoebox project in which they created and gave out 40 gift boxes to homeless people across the city.

Shannon Phillips, President of the Help the Homeless Society at the University of Sussex, said: “As young students ourselves, we feel that the YMCA is very close to our hearts due to their work involving supporting 18-25 year olds by providing housing advice, counselling and rehabilitation.

“Sleeping out for just one night is a real challenge. You hear every single noise and at no point feel warm or comfortable. It really hits home how lucky we are that we are able to return in the morning to a warm bed and dry house – whilst others do not have this luxury.”

To donate to Professor Kelly Coate’s CEO Sleep Out visit here, to donate to the Lacrosse Society visit here, or to donate to Help the Homeless visit here.

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 4 April 2019