There seems to be an emerging trend for highly paid executives to spend a night, sleeping outdoors to ‘help the homeless’.
I find this both insulting and irritating, so please let me explain why below.
You find these executive sleepouts take place in areas like football stadia or museum grounds.
Nice, safe, secure areas. They have high fences, locked gates, perhaps even CCTV or security guards in place.
There is no risk of the people taking part in these sleepouts being attacked or having the possessions they have taken with them stolen.
That buys a lot of peace of mind that is simply not available to those who are forced to sleep on the streets.
The executive sleepouts appear to be done in groups of people.
Again, safety is guaranteed by ‘strength in numbers’. There appears to be a sense of camaraderie, ‘we are all in it together’, ‘Dunkirk Spirit’. Call it what you will, but the one thing that is lacking is any sense of fear through isolation.
Nobody has to keep one eye open at the same time as trying to get some sleep, just to stay safe. Nobody is at risk of being assaulted, raped or killed like those forced on the street are.
Sleeping out for one night. You will be surprised just how easy that is when you have a nice hot bath and warm home to return to where you can cook yourself a hearty warm meal.
One night is nothing. Especially when they have ‘a lifestyle’ to return to.
Sleeping out for a single night does not introduce hygiene issues. When flushing toilets are laid on, it takes away the need to be aware of where you can go to the toilet for free.
Also after a single night, they can dash home for a hot shower or bath. People can get a shave, wash their hair to keep looking ‘presentable’.
People forced to live on the street do not have those options available to them at the drop of a hat.
Having that ‘lifestyle’ to return to relieves a lot of psychological pressure. Having any sort of hope can be enormously beneficial psychologically. It is why athletes talk about a ‘positive mental attitude’.
Having executive salaries, homes and cars to go back to means those taking part in executive sleepouts cannot even begin to feel the psychological problems that come from a lack of hope and longer-term homelessness.
The executive sleepout participants, from the little I have seen in media coverage, seem to turn up with high-end camping gear. Nice warm coats. Thick downy sleeping bags.
That is completely divorced from the reality of the street.
To gain any understanding, they need to be stripped of that gear and have it replaced by a single blanket and some cardboard.
Of course, you can be homeless without sleeping rough on the streets.
Shamefully many families across the country are homeless. Some live in bed and breakfasts, motels or even the family car.
Take a look at the 2016 documentary YHomeless. (Available on Amazon Prime)
These sleepouts seem to ignore the hidden homeless people in temporary accommodation or couch surfing at friends.
I heard one person, who had done an executive sleepout, explain they now knew all about homelessness as a direct result of that night.
They actually believed that and that is what I find so irritating.
Being slightly cold, in such an artificial situation does NOT make participants experts and I will happily challenge anyone who claims it does.
In fact, I would suggest there is a chance that these sleepouts could actually be damaging the assistance of genuinely homeless people, as rich and powerful people walk away from that night thinking, ‘Ah that was no big deal’.
As far as I am concerned, it is little more than vanity camping where executives will do some networking.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to share your perspective in the comments below.