9000 people, 9000 reasons: the reality of Sleep in the Park

By Steve White

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 As I bunked down in a sleeping bag last week in sub-zero temperatures at Sleep in the Park, it occurred to me that, among the 9,000 people taking part, there were probably 9,000 reasons why.

Just among the Balhousie team, which ranged from care assistants to myself and chairman Tony Banks, everyone had lots of different reasons for being there.

Elaine Smith, from Wheatlands, lost her oldest son five years ago in an accident. Elaine had always said that she would sleep homeless on the streets if she could, by a miracle, have her son back. Our Dementia Consultant Yvonne Manson signed up “because Team Balhousie have supported so many dementia fundraising events I have done”. (You can read about everyone’s reasons here.)

Our experience in Edinburgh was one of highs and lows. This was a team effort, a great cause, and something that raised £16,000 for Social Bite. Another high point was meeting Sir Bob Geldof and seeing him model the Balhousie hat! The obvious low was the temperature of -6. And, for me, it was the sight of the rows of people lying side by side covered in orange plastic sheets. They looked too much like body bags.

It was humbling to think that this is the brutal reality for thousands of people every single night. They don’t get on a train the next day and go back to their centrally heated houses, a hot shower, food and family.

Community and charity are already firmly on the map at Balhousie, and it makes me proud to say I work here. But for Tony and me, Sleep in the Park strengthened our resolve to up our game and really draw attention to social issues. With 25 care homes in 25 local communities, we are in a perfect position to do that. It’s our duty, not only as successful business people but as human beings.

So, 9000 people, 9000 reasons. Princes Street Gardens held more than people that night. It held a lot of stories, a lot of hearts, and hopefully a lot of minds that, like ours, were opened up a little. I know several of our own team went home and immediately signed up to volunteer for a shelter near them.