Charity fundraising sleepout cancelled after protest threat
The launch of a major fundraising campaign to help the rising number of rough sleepers across Nottinghamshire has been sabotaged by activists who have forced the cancellation of a popular fundraising event.
The homeless charity Framework had been intending to use its flagship fundraising event – a sponsored sleep out – to launch its Off the Streets fundraising campaign but has taken the unprecedented step of cancelling the event after activists promised to disrupt it.
Framework, which supports and accommodates homeless and vulnerable people in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire as well as in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, has been holding its Big Sleep Out for more than 15 years.
This year’s event, planned for Saturday 26th November at Sneinton Market Square, was expected to raise more than £30,000 to kick start an urgent £230,000 fundraising appeal to support the growing number of people sleeping rough in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
However organisers of the event, which was expected to attract up to 300 people including families with young children, were recently alerted to a serious and credible attempt to disrupt the event by members of two activists groups.
The groups have threatened to occupy the site and harass participants. The same groups were involved in last year’s homeless camp protest in Nottingham city centre and have recently been involved in a similar protest in Leeds. Their activities in Leeds have highlighted the likelihood of harassment and invasive, unauthorised filming of participants and volunteer staff.
Framework Operations Director Michael Leng said: “The proposed action of these groups is entirely counter-productive. They claim to have the interests of homeless people at heart but are preventing public support for a realistic plan to help tackle the crisis of homelessness in Nottinghamshire.
“The timing is also poignant: rough sleeping has more than doubled in England since 2010 and is at the highest levels in Nottingham for nearly 20 years: only last week 38 rough sleepers were found on a single night in the city.
“Framework works closely with the City Council to tackle rough sleeping in Nottingham but no outreach work is taking place in Nottinghamshire. The purpose of Framework’s Off the Streets campaign is to channel public support into creating an expert team to work directly with rough sleepers in the county and to enhance support in Nottingham itself.
“The activists have a clearly stated intention to disrupt the Big Sleep Out and to harass our supporters. We cannot ignore that threat and have a duty to act in the best interests of those supporters.
“Since becoming aware of this issue we have worked extensively with Nottinghamshire Police who have considered the matter at the highest level and have provided extensive consultation and support for which Framework is most grateful. The Police could no doubt keep the event physically safe but they would be unable to stop the non-physical harm that would occur in this public place and their presence would inevitably change the nature of the occasion.”
Framework was relying on funds raised at the Big Sleep Out to kick start its Off the Streets fundraising appeal to tackle the growing rough sleeping crisis in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. It is hoping to raise £230,000 to fund the annual cost of:
- a new outreach team based in Mansfield to work with rough sleepers in that area and other parts of the county – where no outreach work is currently taking place
- increasing the capacity of the street outreach team in Nottingham.
Framework still needs to raise the £30,000 that the Big Sleep Out would have provided and is asking people to offer support in any way they can:
- Groups who planned to take part are being asked to consider holding their own “sleep-in” at a safe, private location.
- People are invited to donate directly to Framework’s Off the Streets campaign via the Framework website at www.frameworkha.org/offthestreets
- Cheques in support of the Off the Streets campaign can be sent to Framework at 25 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham NG7 6NX.
Framework Chief Executive Andrew Redfern said: “Our primary concern at all our fundraising events is not – as these groups claim – about making money to enrich Framework. It is about the well-being and safety of participants. Faced with what we know and the advice we have received, we simply cannot go ahead with this event with this threat hanging over it.
“We cannot invite supporters – including families with young children – to an event where we know there is a possibility of disruption and disorder.
“Sneinton Market is a wonderful venue for this event but its exposed location makes it difficult to secure adequately in these circumstances. Although security is provided at the Big Sleep Out, by way of guards and fencing, it is not designed to deal with the threat posed by the protesters.
“So Framework has, with huge regret, decided to cancel this year’s event. This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and disappointing decisions we have ever had to make but have concluded, after weighing up all the options and consulting the Police, that the only safe option is to cancel this year’s Big Sleep Out.
“My colleagues and I are deeply disappointed by this turn of events. We are also disappointed for our participants, sponsors, hosts, vendors and volunteers. Most of all we are disappointed for the people sleeping on our streets who really need the help which this event would have provided.”
Framework is contacting everyone who planned to attend the event to inform them of the news. It will host fundraising sleep-out events in the future.
A spokesperson from Nottingham Building Society which is sponsoring the Big Sleep Out said:
“We are disappointed that Framework has been forced into making this decision, however completely understand that the safety and welfare of everyone taking part is paramount. We remain committed to Framework as an organisation and we will be continuing to support homelessness in the city throughout the winter.
“This is the sixth year staff from The Nottingham would have taken part in the Sleep Out and our 2016 team from our estate agency business will be taking part in an alternative fundraising event for Framework.”