Learning in your sleep

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THOSE who know me well or follow my Twitter feed, will know that the KCP Motley Crew are planning to spend a night sleeping in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh on December 9.

Along with our friends from Let's Promote (UK) Ltd, we will be kitting ourselves out with sleeping bags and warm clothing for the experience … in all honestly it has become a bit of a mission for us all to ensure that we are warm an cosy for our charitable “ordeal” on a mission to raise funds for Social Bite's efforts to combat homelessness in Scotland.

But of course we might just be missing the point … those people forced to sleep in the park on a regular basis, through lack of anywhere else to go, do not normally have the luxury of sleeping bags and warm clothing.

Very often they don't have access to warming drinks and nourishing comfort food either … and life for them can be dangerous.

The homeless charity Shelter say: “If you have no option but to sleep on the streets, you should try to find somewhere sheltered, protect yourself against the cold by having a sleeping bag and/or blankets and avoid sleeping directly on the ground, for example, by putting cardboard or blankets down first.”

They also advocating in places where other people in the same position are sleeping because there is safety in numbers but they also warn: “However, sleeping in a visible place may put you at risk from the general public. Women may be more at risk if they are in an area where there are people they don't know.”

And they warn: “Unfortunately, street homeless people are particularly vulnerable to crime. If your property is stolen, or if you are assaulted or attacked, you should always report it to the police.”

Of course the danger is not just from other people but from the elements, lack of access to hygiene facilities and a decent diet - it is hard for those of us with a job, roof, family and good food to imagine what that is like.

Shelter say: “Sleeping on the streets may affect your health. An irregular diet, lack of sleep and exposure to cold and damp can quickly make you rundown and ill. Homelessness can also affect your mental health, with problems such as stress, anxiety or depression often becoming worse.

In addition, you'll find if you have any problems with drug or alcohol addiction, these will be even harder to deal with while you're sleeping rough.

Although people sleeping on the streets have a right to register with a doctor, it can be difficult to get medical treatment. You may be offered temporary registration for three months.

However, this will not enable you to get a medical card - you will only get this if a doctor accepts you as a permanent patient. You do not need an address to register: you can use a 'care of' address, such as a friend or a day centre. If one doctor's practice or medical centre won't let you register, don't give up; try somewhere else.”

The homeless also face problems with keeping in touch with family, with finding somewhere safe to secure whatever belongings they have and even with looking after their pets.

The Sleep in the Park event run by Social Bite, a charity dedicated to the eradication of homelessness in Scotland, is expected to attract some 9,000 participants and some of the biggest names in showbiz will also be taking part but is has been described by the editor of the Daily Record as 'A sanitised version of the hell of homelessness' .

He's not wrong … but the Motley Crew are still pleased to be taking part and if our overnight stay in Princes Street Gardens gives us just a tiny taste of what homelessness could be like then we will have learned a very valuable lesson.

I hope we will also have raised some money to help the Social Bite cause. You can help by sponsoring us here

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