This weekend, despite driving winds and rain (and at one point, hail), we took part in a sponsored night walk.
We walked just under five miles in total, along the promenade from Hove to Brighton in East Sussex, for a charity local to us called Off the Fence.
Off the Fence help the homeless, in some cases managing to get them off the street and into housing, but in others, just by providing food or a warm shower. They also run crisis centres for vulnerable women and deliver outreach programmes in schools and colleges.
Our participation in the walk came by chance really – a connection my boyfriend made while at work. But when we did a bit of research into the charity, we wanted to help. We wanted to give something back to the place we call home.
Which is why, at 7pm on Saturday night, with the wind and rain battering against our flat windows, we put layer upon layer and donned whatever warm and waterproof clothing we could find in preparation for the walk.
And weirdly, I’m actually glad the weather was so bad.
In Brighton and Hove alone, 17 people died sleeping rough last year. And on the walk, I discovered that the city is actually just second in the UK (following London) when it comes to the number of homeless on the streets.
Enduring a bit of wind and rain for two hours seemed like nothing when there are people in Brighton enduring that sort of weather on the streets every single night.
Everyone on the walk was really friendly, so naturally I got chatting. And I learnt some shocking facts from Off the Fence employees.
Like how, at their last count in November, there were 120 homeless in Brighton and Hove, spanning a range of ages from as young as 16.
Or how, many of the homeless didn’t live here originally. They moved to find work or housing and when that didn’t work out, with no family or friends to turn to, they were left with just one option.
And yes, addiction is a big problem. But some people fall into drug or alcohol addiction as a result of being homeless – not always the other way round.
I’ve grown up on the south coast of England. Brighton has always been just a short car or train ride away. Since moving, we’re now even closer.
The place has always been special to me. I love the Lanes, the old and the new Pier, the old seaside charm and the abundance of creativity. Plus, when you leave home and have to introduce yourself to new people, the only town near me they’ve ever heard of is Brighton…
But alongside it’s highlights, I’ve also been aware that homelessness was a big problem. I just didn’t realise how bad it was.
So while I may have woken up on Sunday with a bright red cheek thanks to the wind the night before, and while our coats took the best part of a night and a day to dry, I wouldn’t have spent my evening any other way on Saturday.
Hopefully the money we raised does go some way to helping the vulnerable in Brighton. Hopefully we’ve helped to get a few more people off the streets so they can begin to turn their lives around.
So next time you spot a local charity or fundraiser and you wonder whether to do it, don’t hesitate. Think about the people you could help.
If everyone did a good deed like this, think how much kinder the world would seem.
And if the weather’s bad?
Throw yourself in with even more determination.