#Iamwithsimon – A guided walk around Rough Sleeper Leeds

This wasn’t a hike as such but I wanted to post about it here , because it was actually one of the most enriching walks I’ve done. I joined a group of about 100 others last night for a sponsored sleep out behind the Leeds Parish Church, raising funds for homeless and rough sleeper outreach charity, Simon on the Streets. I’m really grateful to all those who between them sponsored me for £250.
The evening started with us all gathering (as individuals, like me, or in business / friend groups) in Leeds City Square. We were met by the friendly and encouraging guys from Simon On The Streets and with them they had some ex rough sleepers who were kind enough to then give us a guided tour of some of the places they slept in when they were sleeping on the streets. Places where you could hopefully avoid the worst of the weather and the worst of other peoples’ harshness and aggression (with that mostly coming from  ‘the public’ not just each other).
Anyway, Paul who shared his story with the group I was in, was really frank and spoke with admirable honesty about his circumstances and how he met up with the charity originally (and how that helped change his path).

Rough sleeper bed of cardboard and sleeping bag
My pretty comfortable bed of cardboard and sleeping bag – nicer than the real thing I’ve no doubt

Seeing Leeds through the eyes of someone who knows its ‘underside’ was both affecting and interesting.

It was a relatively short walk (about an hour) on what was a kind night for us office worker types – no rain and really warm – but with the connections I made with some great people and the things I learned, it was a bit of a bigger journey that’ll stay with me.
People like Helen and Matt (who I had a good chat with) from Simon On The Streets, Paul the ex rough sleeper who spoke about some difficult stuff and huge credit to him for doing that and @zandramoore@martinotoole and @JonathanHirst , a right nice bunch of decent people.

Although it’s now over, if you feel inclined, then money is still being collected for a few weeks yet I think – so you can use my just giving page to donate – and thanks if you do. The charity only has donations as a source of income, they’re not government funded.

On a different note (and related to this blog) it got me thinking about urban walks –   something I know is a big thing in some cities. I’d like to explore a few cities in this way in the future. Its easy to miss the human in cross city journeys completed in a car.

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