Tim Renshaw’s Big Sleepout
At the start of October 2022 Tim Renshaw, CEO of the Archer Project in Sheffield spent 14 nights sleeping rough in church yards across the city. The aim was to raise awareness of homelessness in Sheffield. Tim write a blog each day about his experiences.
Tim highlighted several times that his sleeping out was to “genuine rough sleeping what glamping is to trekking in the Himalayas”, but his reflections on his current situation and 15 years of working with vulnerable people show how trauma plays a deep and significant role in contributing to people finding themselves rough sleeping and who this and how support is structured keeps people trapped.
We’ve selected 4 extracts from his blog.
Thanks to Tim Renshaw for allowing us to share from his blog.
There was another thought swimming around in my head. Earlier in the evening he had described his habit of drinking too much and getting into fights. He isn’t small and he reacts to things that make him angry and then, when sober, regrets it. He added something like, “But I can cope with it, if I can cope with what my dad did to me, I can cope with anything.” Most people who end up sleeping rough have experienced severe childhood traumas. It’s something that creates distance between themselves and the society around them because life becomes an exercise in survival, and trusting others isn’t a great survival technique.
We want people who are rough sleeping to be organised enough to take reasonable decisions that will help them in the long run. It means remembering appointments and where those appointments are meant to be. It involves keeping your composure when systems fail or people don’t understand what you’re really asking for or trying to say. It involves a lot of things that at my best I can do with ease. But I’m not at my best and I can’t be because I’m not getting enough sleep and I don’t feel great about being me or the way some people have looked at me or treated me.
8.30am I got a lift into Sheffield and am sat in the train station. I can’t describe how different I feel from the people around me. They are busy, clean, dressed for the business of the day ahead. They are purposeful. All I can think of is that I smell. I didn’t know why it was important to have just one set of clothes when I set off ten days ago. I do now. I am de-humanised in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I am, somehow, less than the people I meet or see. I am ashamed of how I am. The danger is that with time I will forget and this will become my new normal.
Meeting people in the evenings has kept me going. Vital human contact, not a nod of hello as you pass someone on the street, but conversation, stimulation, companionship. Without that I don’t know where my head would be? Without it, would the way I feel about myself be so much worse? I suspect so.
Yesterday I walked past a little Sainsbury’s in a nice middle-class suburb. I intended to go in but a man was stood by the door with his dog and I thought he looked at me with disdain. It was enough for me to carry on walking. As I walked away, I laughed at myself. I could have stared at him with equal disdain, but I had felt judged. I had felt as though I didn’t belong and even though I do, because I’m not homeless, homelessness was in my head.