We joined over 2,500 people braving the winter conditions to raise awareness and funds for housing and homelessness charity Shelter
If you were attempting to walk at leisure through the streets of London yesterday evening, we apologise if your journey was disrupted by a sea of citizens marching through the city wearing matching bright red scarves.
We hope you’ll forgive us when you understand the reason for our 10km walk: it was to raise incredibly important awareness and funds for Shelter, the leading national housing and homelessness charity desperately trying to keep people in Britain off the streets – as temperatures drop to the minus numbers.
The team braved the winter conditions for two hours – alongside over 2,500 other people – before heading back to a warm home. Sadly, this wasn’t the same situation for 320,000 people in Britain, who slept outside last night.
Of particular concern to Marie Claire is vulnerable women. Shockingly, women who become part of the street homeless are the only group in our society whose life expectancy is lower than men’s, at just 42 years old. Domestic abuse makes women 20 times more likely to become homeless, and for women already on the streets, fear remains part of daily life.
One in four are sexually assaulted every year, while 58 per cent have been intimidated or threatened. Attacks, including being kicked, robbed, spat or urinated on, are common.
The knowledge of these devastating statistics pushed us to power on to the finish line, where we were met with cheering charity volunteers, water and sweets. Every walker was also individually handed a Christmas card from Shelter. It read:
‘This wasn’t just a walk. This was a 10km fight against homelessness. We campaign so that one day, everyone will have a home to call their own.
‘Tonight you’ve helped us to raise a total of £500,000. Thank you for fighting alongside us.’
As well as the thousands of Londoners, England’s most capped Lioness Fara Williams and cricketer Monty Panesar took part in the second – and biggest ever – ‘Sleep Walk’ for Shelter event. Fara said, ‘Homelessness and bad housing affects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK so it’s more important than ever that we support those who are at risk of losing their homes. With our help, they can make a difference to people who need it this Christmas.’
The six mile walk – which started at 6pm in Waterloo – followed a report from Shelter released on Tuesday, revealing how a child becomes homeless every eight minutes, and that there are now 135,000 children in Britain without a home.
The charity also discovered that 183 children lose their homes every single day, with child homelessness at its highest rate since 2006. By Christmas Day in 2019, at least 135,000 children will be living in temporary accommodation.
What did we take away from the event? Apart from the rather nice complimentary scarf, we took home a real wake-up call to the reality that thousands of women are without a home, often through no fault of their own. Next week (Wednesday 11th), the fight against the crisis continues, as the ‘Sleep Walk’ moves to Manchester. Meanwhile, we continue to tell the stories of women who face homelessness over Christmas. Stay tuned.
To donate and for more information, see shelter.org.uk/sleepwalk