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City charity invites residents to camp in their gardens for local homeless people 

An Exeter-based homelessness charity is inviting people to sleep out under the stars in April, to help raise money for its work with rough sleepers.

But St Petrock’s Big Night Out is a sleep-out with a difference, as participants will bed down in safe locations such as their gardens, garages or workplaces, rather than in one central place.

St Petrock’s Director, Peter Stephenson, who will be settling down in his shed for the night, said: “People’s experiences on Friday 12 April won’t compare with the physical and mental trauma of being homeless of course.

“However, it’ll be a fun way to raise money for our life-saving work supporting rough sleepers and a chance to reflect on what it might be like to have to sleep rough out of necessity.

“Sadly, homelessness in Exeter continues to rise, with our staff providing more home-cooked meals, showers, emotional support, clothing and sleeping bags to rough sleepers, than ever before.

“Between 25 and 35 people are sleeping rough on a typical night in the city centre, but there are many more people who are homeless and hidden from view, either sofa surfing or sleeping in cars, for example.

This will be Peter Stephenson’s sixth sponsored sleep out in his 20 year career in the homelessness sector, however, this will be his first remote sponsored outdoor event.

“The most important thing is safety and choosing safe locations. The second most important thing is keeping warm.  Rough sleepers tell us it’s essential to stay dry, as it’s pretty much impossible to stay warm when you’re soaked through.”

Claire Wright, Community Relations Manager, added: “We will send a St Petrock’s Big Night Out pack to participants once they have signed up, which includes information on how to stay safe and warm, promotional materials and how to get sponsorship.

“We will check in with participants at around 9pm via a Zoom call to see how they’re getting on, and first thing the following morning.”

Five prizes have been donated by local businesses for the:

  • Most ‘exotic’ location

Prize: Two complimentary tickets to Powderham Castle’s Let’s Rock 80s festival

  • Most elaborate shelter

Prize: Four complimentary tickets for Scott Cinemas

  • Participant furthest from Exeter

Prize: £50 voucher for Petrock’s Place

  • Biggest amount raised by an individual

Prize: A complimentary family of four annual pass to Canonteign Falls

  • Most resplendent hat

Prize: A 30 minute portrait session in Budleigh, Exmouth or Woodbury by Freeride Media

Anyone wishing to support St Petrock’s by getting involved in Big Night Out, on Friday 12 April can sign up at www.stpetrocks.org.uk

Pic: Gearing up for The Big Night Out! Director, Peter Stephenson, with Community Relations Manager, Claire Wright.