St Mary’s Church in Stoke Newington is to make another “big gesture” later this month by inviting people to sleep outside for a night to raise awareness about homelessness in Hackney.
The Community Sleepout will take place on 29 June and follows hot on the heels of the church’s successful Three Billboards campaign – inspired by the Oscar-winning film.
One of the placards, which are installed on the grounds of the church in Stoke Newington, reads ‘6167 homeless in Hackney’.
The figure includes rough sleepers, sofa surfers and those living in temporary or emergency accommodation, and equates to one in 44 people in the borough.
Now Reverend Dilly Baker is urging people to join her in sleeping beneath the billboards for one night.
She told the Citizen: “The billboards have shocked passers-by, and now we’re asking the community to make a big gesture – to spend a night in the elements, sleeping on the grass whatever the weather.”
People can take part in the sleepout for free, but are asked to raise money for the church by attracting sponsorship.
They should also bring along a sleeping bag, warm clothes and something to lie on such as a groundsheet or a cardboard box.
Any money raised will go towards a new community hub, which will replace the church rooms being used by the Winter Night Shelter, food bank and Hackney Migrant Centre.
There is currently only one shower for the 25 people using the shelter, and no private space for those using the Doctors of the World medical service.
If the new centre gets built, St Mary’s will use any extra space to launch a soup kitchen, a lunch club for the elderly and a money advice centre.
The church has so far raised over £1 million for the plans, but needs a final £250,000 before it can lay the first brick.
Rev Baker appealed to locals to support the efforts, adding: “Stoke Newington is an area of huge wealth but there’s real poverty here too – a rising number of people resort to food banks and with rents sky-high and a shortage of affordable homes, many struggle to make ends meet.”
The Citizen reported earlier this month on the evictions of two homeless men who had been living in tents on Mare Street.
To sign up for the Community Sleepout, or to donate to the new centre, please visit stmaryscentren16.org