Could you function on 1 hour of broken sleep every night?
June 19th I did the CEO Sleepout in Canberra. It is not the same as being homeless, but it was eye opening. Most homeless aren’t rough sleepers, my daughters and I weren’t, but for those living on the streets, how they manage to survive at all is a miracle.
We were safe sleeping in The National Film And Sound Archives courtyard with security guards and protected from the wind. That does not even begin to compare with what the real homeless go through. But it wasn’t as easy as I expected! So what surprised me?
1.) Lack of sleep
I didn’t expect to sleep much but I thought since I was up late the night before, I wasn’t cold and I have slept on the ground before that I would get a few hours. I got 1 hour, maybe 1.5, but it was in broken segments, 20 minutes here, 5 minutes there.
2.) Freaking out
Around 2:30am I dozed off and had a dream I was falling which jerked me awake and disoriented me. I freaked out internally and it took a few moments to compose myself, work out where I was and realise I was ok. I had only been asleep for 20 minutes.
3.) Creepy crawlies
I fell asleep later for 10 minutes and woke face to face with a slug. I suddenly realised bugs, slugs, spiders, anything could crawl on me in my sleep. I was completely exposed. Logically I knew that before, but the reality of it in my face was different. I slid right down in my sleeping bag and closed it over my head.
4.) Being scared of a bench
I have a king size bed to myself at home. At the sleepout, every time I knocked the bench I was sleeping next to I thought it was another person which scared me. It made me think about those sleeping on the streets and how the reality for them is they are exposed, they do get robbed and assaulted when trying to sleep. Nowhere is safe.
5.) People snore
I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before going. I was lucky at the sleepout to have a ‘light’ snorer near me with the heavy snorers down the end.
While rough sleepers might not have a snorer near them, every other noise will wake them or prevent them from sleeping. Snoring is an issue for the homeless in shelters as well. I know snoring might not be a big deal, but sleep deprivation is.
I barely slept at the sleepout or even in the nights since. I have had a full work schedule, but with sleep deprivation my mind is clouded and it is hard to focus. The sleep deprivation is bad, but it is one component of homelessness. Another big issue, especially for rough sleepers is living in survival mode. I know what that is like. At the end of 2012 and early 2013, that was me. The difference was I had a roof over my head. I did not feel safe because of everything that had been going on, but I was out of the elements.
The feeling of being on edge, just trying to survive, not knowing when it would end, when you would be safe, how you would afford everything. It was hard, but at least I had a bed and family support (they were interstate and I couldn’t move yet.)
I had hope too. I knew if I could get to Canberra I would be safe and could rebuild my life. Most homeless do not have that definite hope, the knowledge that there is something that will end the current situation.
I know doing the CEO sleepout is nothing compared to being homeless and maybe my experience of sleeping out was different having lived through what I have. I came away from it with an incredibly strong desire to do more. What more can I do to help? Is the question I have been asking myself since I slept out.
I’m impressed with the nations total for the CEO Sleepout – over $5,500,000!
See that, the ACT only has a population of around 380,000 so it is great to see we managed to raise that much!
Where to from here?
I have posted a variety of ways to help the homeless and tips on what to do if you are or about to become homeless.
What will I be doing?
I’ll continue to raise awareness, fundraise and participate in events. I will be using 10% of book royalties from my new book Overcoming Obstacles (Balboa Press, late 2014, more on this later this week). As of July 1st I will also be donating 10% of my business income to helping the homeless.
I have a few meetings with various charities and people to see what else can be done. More can be and needs to be done.
What will you do to help?