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Night on the streets was real eye-opener
FUNDRAISER Sian Hawley failed to get a wink of sleep during her night of sleeping rough on the streets of Oxford.
She says the experience on Saturday night opened her eyes to the plight of homeless people living in the city facing winter without a roof over their heads.
The 25-year-old from Ardington and two family members raised more than £1,000 for charity Oxford Homeless Pathways by spending the night outside the Westgate Centre collecting donations.
Her father, Leslie Belcher, 51, was a rough sleeper who died at the Lucy Faithfull House hostel in Speedwell Street on October 31.
Miss Hawley said: “We had charity buckets but a lot of people thought we were homeless. They either walked past us and didn’t acknowledge us or especially at the end of the night we got patronising comments from people who had been drinking. But some people were absolutely lovely.”
She added: “We ached from head to toe. It was one night and I felt like I had been hit by a bus.”
The trio had sleeping bags and plenty of warm clothes to get them through the relatively mild but wet night and spoke to two homeless people called Sharon and Shaggy.
Miss Hawley said: “There is nothing I could have done to experience what they have to go through – even if I spent a week on the streets I have a home to go to. They don’t. Every single night is a night of survival for them.”
Miss Hawley said she discovered that homeless people with pets find it difficult to secure rooms in a hostel and the experience has inspired her to do more to support homeless people in the future.
Oxford Homeless Pathways helped Mr Belcher when he was given an Asbo and fell into difficulties.
Miss Hawley said: “I think he would have been really proud. He would be really happy that I kind of understand a bit more of what they have to go through. And how you can have someone on the street who people can walk past – but if you spend time getting to know them they are actually amazing people.”
She was joined by cousin James Desmond, of Blackbird Leys, and her father’s cousin Colin Morris-Smith, 55, of Blackbird Leys, who said: “We had lots of conversations with some of the homeless people and learnt a lot about what it is like to live on the street. It was an eye-opener.”