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Daughter will spend night sleeping rough to understand how her father coped
Buy this photo » Left to right: Colin Morris-Smith, James Desmond and Sian Hawley, who will be sleeping rough to raise money for a homeless charity. Picture: OX56308 Ric Mellis
LIKE many people, Sian Hawley never gave much thought to the homeless people she passed in the street each day.
That was until her dad died and she learned more about his troubled past as a rough sleeper.
Now Miss Hawley, 25, along with her cousin and father’s cousin, is going to spend a night on the freezing streets to raise money and awareness of the plight of those who have no roof over their heads.
Leslie Belcher, 51, died at the Lucy Faithfull House hostel in Speedwell Street on October 31.
His funeral was attended by more than 200 people, but despite her father’s family and friends, Miss Hawley said ending up on a street corner begging for change was a fate that could befall anyone.
She said: “A lot of people think Oxford is affluent and well-to-do, and while there is a bit of money kicking about there is another side to the place completely.
“There are so many people living on the streets, it’s not like one or two, or a handful, but loads.
“And a lot of them have drink and drug problems.”
She has chosen Oxford Homeless Pathways to receive the money.
The charity helps homeless and recently homeless people, many of whom have drug and alcohol problems.
It helped Mr Belcher when he was given an Asbo and fell into difficulties.
She said: “Oxford Pathways does what it can to try to take people out of this and move them away from the drink and drugs, and dad’s experience with them is why we want to raise money. Before all the trouble he had his own flat, and he used to be a plasterer. I got so used to the flat while we were growing up, and then one day it was gone.
“This fundraising challenge has really got me thinking, ‘where will we sleep?’ ‘What possessions will we bring?
“Even things like, ‘where do you go to the bathroom?’ Things like that have really sunk in, and for me this is just one night. I get to go home to a nice warm house when it’s done, but for some it is every night they are out there.
“Before I saw what happened to my dad I would walk past homeless people and think; ‘There must be something they can do, why don’t they get a job?’ But it’s not like that. You lose everything and before you know it you have nowhere to live and are sleeping outside.
“My dad had loads of friends and a massive family, and he still ended up like that.
“It’s so easy and could happen to anyone.”
She will be joined outside the Westgate Centre on Saturday by her cousin James Desmond, of Blackbird Leys, and her father’s cousin Colin Morris-Smith, who first suggested the idea.
The trio have set up a page at justgiving.com/lesbelcherfundforthehomeless to donate, and it has raised more than £300 of a £500 target to date.
Oxford Homeless Pathways chief executive Lesley Dewhurst said: “We are delighted that the family of Les Belcher are braving the streets for one night this weekend to raise money for Oxford Homeless Pathways.
“The money raised will really help other homeless people get out of the homelessness trap, avoiding tragic deaths like Les’s.”
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