Our longest night

MIDWEEK HERALD SLEEP-OUT: after a ‘last supper’ at Ali’s Kebab House, staff, joined by Councillor Sharon Pavey, unrolled their sleeping bags and bedded down for the night. Find out how they got on...

With bellies full of warm food, washed down with hot chocolate, the streets of Honiton didn’t seem that daunting at 11pm last night.

Sleeping bags were unrolled in the shadows of Lace Walk car park and, under the flickering glow of The Co-operative’s illuminated sign, tired bodies ached for rest.

Staff from the Midweek Herald, joined by Green Party town councillor Sharon Pavey, drifted off to sleep almost in sync with street lights as, one by one, they were snuffed out, leaving only blackness.

Raising money for The King’s Centre Food Bank, there was one great irony in the exercise - all three people who came across the ‘rough sleepers’ were only there to scavenge what they could from the supermarket’s bins.

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Two travelled to Honiton from Axminster for food and a third seemed happy to walk away with a discarded clock.

Proof, indeed, that the food bank is needed and a worthwhile cause.

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The cold, hard concrete around the store provided a very uncomfortable ‘bed’.

“It was a humbling experience,” said reporter Katy Griffin. “It made me appreciate having a roof over my head and a bed.

“We all felt very safe in Honiton, but I would feel vulnerable if I had to do it every night on my own.”

The brainchild of advertising executive Claire Pearce, the sleep out has raised hundreds of pounds for the food bank, which fed 25 families in the five weeks following its launch.

The sleepers, including Tim Mortimer, Matt Jenkins, Dave Somerton-Rees and Alex Walton, endured a night on the town with a difference.

With torches and flasks at the ready, they slept in ‘stop, start’ mode and got a rude awakening from an unlikely source at 3.20am.

A tiny blackbird, with an annoyingly loud chirp, heralded a premature dawn chorus. Its singing was ceaseless.

“Never again!” said Tim. “It was the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had!”

Editor Belinda Bennett said: “I don’t think I’ll rush to volunteer to sleep on the streets again, but it has been a worthwhile exercise for a deserving cause.

“The economic downturn has really hit some local families and, for a few, keeping a roof over their heads means they can’t afford food.

“We hope that our sleep out has raised awareness about The King’s Centre and the fantastic work it is doing to help local people in need.”

The exercise was kindly sponsored by East Devon District Council.

Participants wish to thank the council and everyone who supported them.

Donations are still being accepted via Honiton Tourist Information Centre.

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