Harrogate business leaders set for a night under the stars to fight homelessness

A national initiative to combat homelessness is set to return next month, with some of Harrogate's business leaders coming together for an unforgettable night, raising vital funds and awareness of homelessness.

By Lucy Chappell
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 11:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 11:12 am

Organisers at CEO Sleepout are urging company bosses and executives from Harrogate to take part in the charity event and give up their beds for one night to help raise money to support homeless people.

Bianca Robinson, Chief Executive of CEO Sleepout, said: “We’re really excited to be back in Harrogate with our first event since the pandemic.

“Our initial sleepout in the area took place in 2018 at Ashville College and moved to its current location, Harrogate Rugby Union Football Club, in 2019.

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Chief executive of CEO Sleepout Bianca Robinson celebrates the return of CEO Sleepout Harrogate with teams from Stratstone BMW and Nicholls Tyreman estate agents, and headteacher Joe Masterson from Brackenfield School

"The last CEO event held there was just three days before the first national lockdown.

“Harrogate isn’t particularly associated with rough sleepers, but this doesn't mean that homelessness doesn't exist.

"We see people sleeping in cars with their children, on friends' sofas, or worse; risking exploitation in exchange for a roof over their heads.

“The event is a chance for local people to learn about hidden homelessness in the area and what’s been done to help those at risk.”

There are still spaces available for the Harrogate sleepout and all business people, from large and small organisations, are being urged to take part to show their support.

Bianca added: “We hope it will also unlock compassion, understanding and inspire them to use their power to reduce inequalities in our society, by aiming to create a positive social impact through their business activities.”

Georgina Watters, Head of Business at Stratstone BMW Harrogate, is participating in the event again after her involvement in the 2020 sleepout and hopes to raise £3,000 along with two of her team members.

She said: “The previous event touched me emotionally; it was cold and uncomfortable, and I cried when I arrived home knowing I could have a hot shower and warm breakfast, but I knew I would be signing up for the next sleepout as soon as I could.

“Sleeping rough is only one of the challenges homeless people encounter.

"I am extremely concerned about the current economic climate, and increasing cost of living, and I want to draw attention to it; homeless figures will no doubt rise, and I want to help people in our area.”

Lucy Downes, CEO at Ripon YMCA, one of the charities receiving funds from this event, said: “The sleepout is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges faced by young adults who have nowhere to call home.

“Between April 2020 and March 2021, we had 27 young people staying at the YMCA.

"One of them said, ‘My room is my independence, for the first time in a long time I feel safe and at ease’.”

Speaking of the CEO Sleepout initiative and its support, Lucy added: “We are thankful that events like the CEO Sleepout exist and can raise much needed awareness and funding to support our work.”

Since the charity was founded in 2013, the sleepout events have raised over £3 million, with the funds helping homeless people in all areas of the United Kingdom.

Ten per cent of funds raised at the CEO Sleepout Harrogate 2022 event will also go to the Disasters Emergency Committee to support those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine.

Bianca added: “I’d like to strongly encourage anyone who is considering signing up to go for it.

“I can't promise you a good night's sleep, but it could be one of the best night's you'll ever have because you could change somebody's life.”

Guy Morfitt, Commercial Chair of Harrogate RUFC, said: “The team at Harrogate RUFC are delighted to host the CEO Sleepout and bring North Yorkshire's businesses together once again to create a deeper understanding of some important social issues in our area.

“The last event in 2020, just before lockdown, was certainly eye-opening, and a bit cold, but also good fun - and that's what it is meant to be - a business fundraiser with a difference.”

The sleepout will take place on Thursday, May 19 at Harrogate RUFC on Rudding Lane.

For more information and to sign up for this year’s event, visit ceosleepoutuk.com/harrogate