Postponing the Big Snore: a bitter blow but the right decision

25 Jan 2013
by Louise Darby

This evening I, and I suspect many of you, should have been at the Mansfield Big Snore – the popular sponsored sleep-out event that has raised tens of thousands of pounds for vulnerable homeless people in the nine years since it started.

Regrettably – and to the huge frustration of everybody at Framework, at St Mark’s Church and our sponsors Western Power – I had to take the decision earlier in the week to postpone this event because of the ongoing freezing and snowy weather.

This, as you may imagine, was not an easy decision to make.

I know that many of the hundred or so people who were signed up to take part, together with the dozens of volunteers who make the event possible, would have turned out regardless of the weather because the cause of tackling homelessness and rough sleeping matters so deeply to them.

They would have braced themselves against the cold and made light of the snow that is forecast to fall tonight because they are so passionate about our work.

But I also know that many other participants, particularly those taking part with children, would not have felt able to attend. For those that did make it out, meanwhile, I fear that the severe conditions would have proved unnecessarily unpleasant and hazardous.

Uppermost in my mind as Framework Fundraising Manager is the impact all this may have had on the fundraising element of the event. Fewer participants, as we have found to our cost after other weather affected events in the past, would inevitably have led to a significant reduction in income. When you consider just how important that money is and where it is spent I believe this argument makes perfect sense. This is, after all, a fundraising event.

The money raised by the Big Snore (which will now take place on Friday, March 1) will be spent on resettling former rough sleepers living at our Sherwood Street accommodation centre in the town. In doing so it will help many more people who are currently sleeping rough to be accommodated and begin their journey to independent living. Every pound that comes in has the power to change and even save the life of vulnerable homeless person. As a result Framework has a duty to them to make the event as successful and enjoyable as possible.

This is the first time this organisation has ever decided to postpone a fundraising event and I hope it will be the last. That difficult decision was made on Tuesday (If you are going to postpone an event it is absolutely vital to make the decision as early as possible) after lengthy deliberation and a great deal of consultation with the weather forecast. With a considerable amount of snow scheduled to fall tonight on the site I am now more confident than ever that the right decision was made. I am also confident that, once it finally goes ahead in March, the Big Snore 2013 will prove our most successful, enjoyable and memorable event yet.

I have, however, spoken with a couple of supporters who were disappointed by the postponement. Some have quite understandably commented on the irony of postponing a sponsored sleep out because the weather is too cold. “Why,” they argue, “can’t we sleep out when so many homeless people have to.” The answer to this is that nobody should be sleeping rough for real in the area tonight because, when the weather does drop this cold, various emergency procedures are enacted (led by the local authority) to provide additional temporary bed spaces. Our Sherwood Street Centre, for example, is currently accommodating up to eight additional rough sleepers a night in the canteen. Some of them would simply not have sought help were it not for the current life-threatening conditions. Put simply, nobody (no matter how dire their circumstances or how hard they are to reach) has to sleep rough in freezing conditions. When snow and ice comes we pull out all the stops to make appropriate and potentially life-saving arrangements.

Now, back on to the new arrangements...

Anybody who was registered for today’s postponed event will automatically be registered for the revised date. I am delighted to say that most are able to make it and that am confident in predicting that any extra places that become available will be snapped up in the coming days.

Whatever you do this evening I wish you all the best. It’s just a mighty shame that you won’t be able to join us at the Mansfield Big Snore – well, not until March at least.

Finally, I would like to extend my thanks once again to all at St Mark’s Church for the fantastic work they do to make this event possible and to our super sponsors Western Power Distribution.

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