Friday, November 8, 2019 - 11:45

The stars came out at the Eden Project last night as 100 fundraisers bedded down on hard ground to help homeless people.

Under clear skies in near-freezing temperatures, the sixth annual Sleep Out beside the Biomes will raise thousands of pounds for two South West homelessness charities, St Petrocs and the Amber Foundation.

Homeless men and women shared heart-rending and inspirational stories with a wide variety of people including school pupils, probation officers, medical staff, lawyers and artists.

One of the most gripping accounts came from Mimi Beard, who told how at the age of 16 she spent nights sleeping rough on a bench and struggled to survive after having to leave the family home in West Cornwall. 

Mimi turned her life around and now at the age of 21 works as a trainee tax accountant. She speaks as an ambassador for St Petrocs, whose mission is to help single homeless people in Cornwall.

She said: “These events and organisations help so many people. No-one deserves to be homeless. The work that you guys do – I can’t thank you enough.”

Last year’s Sleep Out at Eden raised around £20,000 for the two charities and organisers hope that this year’s event will at least match that sum. 

Lois Wild of the St Petrocs communications team said that money raised will have a big benefit in the coming cold months. At the charity’s winter night shelter in Truro, £28 buys a bed space for one person for one night. 

Lois said: “Eighty–nine people used our night shelters last year. Our services are being used more and more every year and there are more people needing help. We are working to end street homelessness and genuinely, with the help of Eden and all the people here tonight, we can make a real difference. This is an immensely powerful event.” 

The Amber Foundation has three residential centres across the South and South West, including Ashley Court in Chawleigh near Crediton, Devon, where it helps unemployed homeless young people. 

Fundraising manager Becky Fry talked of how Amber is helping troubled young people transform their own lives. She was accompanied by two residents, both young men. The first had come directly to the charity from prison and with the help of the foundation had gained 15 qualifications, taken up music again and been re-united with close family members. 

Another, aged just 18, had fled domestic violence and now, for the first time in many years, is able to sleep more than four hours a night and get his life back on track. 

Becky told the fundraisers: “This is such an amazing event. We feel honored to be part of it and want to thank you all for your incredible efforts. Your support means so much.”

The gathering also heard from acclaimed author Raynor Winn, who turned her and her husband’s extraordinary story of  becoming homeless and walking the South West Coast Path into a best-selling book, The Salt Path.

In a first for the event, illustrator Helen Trevaskis drew scenes of the Sleep Out as an artistic record of the night. Previously she has produced a book of drawings from a visit to St Petrocs, representing the work of the charity in a new and captivating way. 

Entertainment was provided by top Cornwall-based singer-songwriter Suzie Mac, a great supporter of the homelessness charities, who performed a soulful set to an appreciative audience in the glow of  the campfire.

Eden chefs ensured no-one went hungry by providing bowls of stew. They also led homemade pizza-making sessions in the warmth of the Eden Kitchen.

Among the companies and organisations represented were a team of nine from Watson-Marlow of Falmouth, who for the second year running expect to raise more than £2,000 between them. Other groups of people included the National Probation Service’s Plymouth Office, Trinity School in Teignmouth, Devon, Carnon Downs Surgery, Cornwall, Wild West PR agency, and Cornwall Junior Lawyers from Coodes and Earl and Crocker. 

Dan James, Eden Project Development Director, said: “Our sixth Sleep Out was a special one. We had an amazing mix of people here and heard some unique, inspiring stories.

“Eden is proud to support the two charities and we salute the fundraisers who endured a bitterly cold night to help people less fortunate than themselves. Thanks also to everyone who has supported the charities through their sponsorship.”

Sleep Out is a nationwide event organised by the End Youth Homelessness (EYH), a national collaboration of grassroots charities and companies that provides vital support to homeless young people across the UK.