Matt Jukes is the chief executive of Hull City Council.
Matt Jukes, chief executive of Hull City Council.

Matt Jukes: Why I am braving a night sleeping in the cold

Tonight is the CEO Sleepout in Hull, when big-hearted business leaders swap suits for sleeping bags to brave a night out in the cold at Craven Park. Hull City Council chief executive Matt Jukes will be among them. Here are his thoughts ahead of the sleepout …

Even for the majority of people fortunate enough to never have experienced it, homelessness is an emotive subject.

Those who are homeless or have been homeless in the past know it can be a desperate and frightening time.

For most people who experience homelessness, it’s about much more than simply losing the roof over your head, as significant as that is. It can also mean losing your sense of security, independence, confidence and inclusion.

Depending on the circumstances that lead to it, it can mean losing friends and family, or a job that was paying the bills suddenly vanishes. It can affect anyone, at any time, in any place.

Fortunately though, there is a lot of help and support for those who find themselves homeless in Hull.

The well-known Rough Sleeper Outreach Service sees Emmaus team members working seven days a week with the approximately 20 people who find themselves sleeping on our streets each night.

The city also has hundreds of units of supported accommodation, including hostels, normal housing with regular support visits and everything in between.

The saying “prevention is better than the cure” is especially applicable to the issue of homelessness.

Given the vulnerability it brings, it’s no surprise that if homelessness isn’t addressed quickly – or prevented in the first place – people experiencing it can spiral into situations and circumstances that would never have happened had they been appropriately housed.

Fortunately, in Hull we have a Housing Options Team which provides some of the best homelessness prevention services in England. When people seek help at the point at which they are threatened with homelessness, rather than at crisis, the team successfully prevents homelessness in 65 per cent of cases, compared with 59 per cent of cases nationally.

Of course, the team provides support for people who are actually homeless too and again achieve some excellent results with people by getting them into accommodation in 70 per cent of cases, compared with just 42 per cent nationally.

If there’s one key message to take away from this, please let it be this: help is available from Hull City Council and our vitally important and committed partners. If you or someone you know is sleeping rough, or have just received a notice from a landlord informing them they are to be evicted, we will endeavour to provide help and support in a way you are happy to accept and with an outcome that you have been involved in making happen.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to be asked by one of those organisations, Emmaus Hull and East Riding, to help them raise funds to keep their services running.

When they approached me with the idea that I could help them, I readily accepted. On the face of it, the opportunity to attend an evening at Craven Park seemed absolutely fine, but the fact this also involves spending a late October night in the open air, and in a sleeping bag, now leaves me thinking I should have given it somewhat more thought beforehand!

So, here we are, the night in question is at hand and, having managed to get hold of a decent sleeping bag (that I can actually fit in) with an air mattress lent to me by my son, I’m hoping I’m as ready as I can be for a chilly and probably uncomfortable night under the stars.

In reality, this is essentially aimed at increasing awareness of the issue of rough sleeping in our city and raising a few pounds along the way to help support those for whom rough sleeping isn’t a choice, or just one evening spent with friends, but a situation that can go on for weeks, months and sometimes years.

One night, however cold and wet it is, is no big deal because, unlike many people across our country, I know I have a warm bed waiting for me on Friday night.

Emmaus ran a similar event last year – it was an enormous success and helped them sustain and develop their excellent services. So, hopefully, the fact you’ve read this blog to this point means that you are interested and care about the plight of the homeless.

If you could potentially help me to raise funds by donating at through my fundraising page, or that of any of the others taking part in Hull’s CEO Sleepout, that would be a massive help.

Donate at Matt’s JustGiving page here or at assistant director for neighbourhoods and housing Dave Richmond’s page here.

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