10pm in Leicester town square, and the sun had fully set. As temperatures fell and a chill wind picked up, most of us hunkered down in our sleeping bags and thought of getting some warm food in the McD's next door. Conversation began to wane, although a small group remained awake playing frisbee or catch rugby.
Midnight came, and it got even colder. We started to realise just how ineffective our gear was - the wind was going straight through my jeans, and my built-for-the-tropics sleeping bag wasn't really helping. Enter the Salvation Army, run by the nicest old couple you will ever meet. They started distributing blankets (oddly with Australian Airlines logos), then brought groups of us to their main building for some free food - tasty, tasty food. It reminded me of going for dinner at an uncle's place, and they made it really quite difficult for us to leave. My little eating group was an odd bunch - we had a Canadian version of Gok Wan, a girl who was organising for the event, and a postgrad who was technically a year below me. Interesting banter ensued as we munched down on restaurant-quality shepherd's pie.
It was 1am when our group headed back to the cardboard town. Things had become substantially better and our spirits were up when a drizzle began. We scurried for the cover of a nearby shop... and were told by the organisers that we weren't allowed to lean against the shop windows!
Now, this is apparently what happened - when HOMED contacted Leicester City Council about the event, the LCC designated an area in which we were allowed to sleep - and apparently, this area was literally, an open space with no shade, and no contact with any walls save for that of the Clock Tower - because somehow the tiny tower can magically shade a hundred people from the rain.
Fortunately, it wasn't heavy - and the waterproof gear that I'd brought with me finally proved its worth. We sat it out with a few umbrellas, and I snuggled under the now-warm sleeping bag to get a bit of sleep.
Roughly 1.30am - I woke up to the image of a weathered old man standing over us, saying something about God to one of the students - and since I'm not going into the God argument again, I decide to old my tongue. From what I overheard, he believed that by doing good things such as sleeping out for charity, we were carrying out God's work. I'll leave the reader to mull that one over.
After the God discussion, I spoke to him and it turned out that he was kicked out by family because of a drinking problem. Having nowhere to go and no money to pay fo shelter, he took to the streets clutching a 2-litre bottle of cheap beer, and that's how we found him.What strikes me is that he'd been given medical treatment (I think it was Naltrexone), ran out of it, and relapsed before he could get more - and when you're trying to rebuild your life, one bad day can sweep away everything you've accomplished. The fact that this man could buy 2 litres of alcohol with what money he had probably didn't help either.
At some point in the night (I can't tell exactly when), we were joined by two more homeless people who were looking for a place to sleep. All I know is that there were suddenly two homeless people with us when there weren't any before. They had apparently been looking for shelter and were turned away because everything was full, and therefore had wandered around till they found us. Ironic really that they were trying to find shelter, while we decided to leave ours for a night.
Having been woken up by the religious alcoholic, I got up and spoke to Carl, the man I mentioned in Part 1. He had been standing guard over us since the night started at 6, and had literally not sat down or rested in any form for 8 hours...
To be continued.