By Madeleine Ashdown, DASH trustee

On Monday 1st June, I took part in the CEO Stay at Home Sleepout 2020, along with fellow DASH trustees, Les Punton, Patrick Conway (pictured) and Helen Burton, and volunteer Osla Henniker-Major. Last year I took part in the CEO Sleepout in Durham Cathedral cloisters with co-trustee, Kate Curry, but this year, of course, the lockdown prevented all sleepouts taking place. The Stay at Home Sleepout was a national event, with many housing support charities joining together across the country to raise money in aid of homelessness. Those taking part gave up their warm beds to sleep out safely at home.


The event was shared via zoom and streamed live on Facebook on the night. The programme was organised by Sleepout Co-ordinator, Bianca Robinson, and the evening was launched by elected mayor of Middlesbrough, Andy Preston, who started the CEO Sleepout events. Then each organisation was given a ‘slot’ to talk about the work of their charity, and the impact of the COVID pandemic. I gave a brief background to the services provided by DASH. Then I explained how our amazing staff have adapted their working practices to maintain our support services safely throughout the lockdown, and are now preparing to ‘resume normal service’ as far as possible whilst protecting our workers and service users.


One message of hope shone through many people’s accounts of the impact of the pandemic on homelessness. There was a strong feeling of optimism that homeless people who have been moved to hotels throughout the crisis may be offered permanent housing when the initiative ends, and that the lockdown has unexpectedly created a huge opportunity to assess the needs of people suddenly taken off the streets. The physical and mental health of those with mental health issues or addictions has improved with help from charity workers who have been providing support. It is important that this positive attitude towards reducing homelessness does not lose momentum.


The evening’s programme drew to a close with an interview with Joe McElderry, X Factor winner, who was taking part in the sleepout, and a rendition of the Crowded House song, Don’t Dream it’s Over with Bianca on guitar. Then it was time to bed down for the night. It wasn’t as cold as the stone floor of the cloisters in April, but still a pretty chilly night! I enjoyed being part of such an inspirational event. At the latest count, the total amount raised for our homelessness charities was £44,500, which is an amazing achievement! Our team has raised a total of £1548.11, more than treble our target of £400. Well done, team DASH, and thanks to our generous donors! Our team Justgiving page is still open if anyone would like to make a donation to this worthwhile cause.