Wigan Youth Zone homelessness project raises Â£1,000 for rough sleepers
Wigan youngsters have been spending time with the borough's homeless population, raising more than Â£1,000 for them during a seven-week course.
Through Wigan Youth Zone, 25 teens have undertaken a ‘social action’ project, completing various gruelling tasks to help those forced to sleep on streets across Wigan and Leigh.
The project, which is part of the youth zone’s National Citizens’ Service course, has seen them sleeping rough and walking miles in the shoes of others who are without homes this winter.
Joe Redford, Wigan Youth Zone’s NCS co-ordinator, explained how the programme - which is split into three sections: adventure, discovery and social action - has helped the teens to learn more about the community around them and take steps to help.
“There are two teams and both of them chose homelessness as their subject,” he said.
“Homelessness is an issue in Wigan and has been getting worse over the past few years.
“The project has helped to engage the groups and they have been able to work with people who are homeless and learn more about them.
“It’s been a great opportunity for them to know that homeless people are people with real stories.”
Over the past seven weeks the teams have taken part in numerous tasks including a seven-and-a-half mile walk from Leigh to Wigan.
The walk took around three-and-a-half hours to complete and the young people asked for cash donations from passers-by, in addition to raising awareness with banners and talking to people as they went.
On November 30, the NCS team took on their biggest challenge yet with an all-night ‘big sleep out’, an outside sleepover at the youth zone.
Armed with just warm clothes and sleeping bags, the team braved the cold weather to get a small glimpse as to how homelessness feels over the winter period.
Bradley Harrison, 19, was one of the participants on the sleepover.
“I realised how difficult it is for homeless people just sleeping on the streets for one night,” he said.
“There is no shelter, no food. I didn’t manage to get any sleep, I wasn’t used to the surrounding or the temperature.
“I didn’t realise how bad an impact it was.”
Harry Wale, 17, also undertook a number of activities during the seven weeks such as the launch of the ‘yes we can’ campaign.
Alongside his teammates, Harry has been promoting the plight of homelessness amongst youth zone parents and the local community and asking for families to donate tin cans that will in turn go to The Brick.
The teams worked collaboratively with the youth zone and came up with an initiative where youth zone members can bring in tin cans instead of paying their 50p entrance fees.
“I think now more than ever, homelessness in Wigan has become an epidemic,” he said. “It has increased exponentially.
“We went to The Brick and spoke to homeless people. I realised it was just people who have gone through a rough time rather than those who have spent too much money on materialistic things.
“There are families who have suffered job losses and others who have just fallen on difficult times.
“The programme has also helped me personally. Through getting the donations I have been able to build my confidence in speaking to people.
“I spoke to 100 board members at a meeting last week, I have always had difficulty in public speaking before.”
Between them the group has raised more than £1,000 and the donations continue to roll in.
Joe said that the course was a “pilot” for the North West, but that due to its success, Wigan Youth Zone is hoping to run another NCS programme in the summer.