My CEO Sleepout experience

Porchlight Trustee Sue Baker recounts her "unforgettable" night under the stars

Sue Baker OBE set up the Time to Change campaign in England which has changed public attitudes to mental health. She is also a Porchlight trustee.

Sue took part in the CEO Sleepout – an event that brings business leaders together to spend a night sleeping outside and raise funds for homelessness.

The next CEO Sleepout Kent takes place at Leeds Castle on Monday, 25 March 2024.

“It’s 6am and CEO Sleepout Kent 2023 is over.

“I’m left sleep deprived with dry eyes, a cold sore, and just some insight into what it feels like to sleep rough during a UK winter. I’ve taken part to raise money for Porchlight and show solidarity with the many people experiencing homelessness in this country.

“My experience of spending a night sleeping out under the skies (with hot water, toilets, security and support nearby) is nothing compared to the weeks, months or even years that people who are homeless endure.

“It’s nothing compared to the challenges, hurdles, abuse, and severe hardship faced by the hundreds of people Porchlight works with each year, those we are yet to reach, or those who have sadly lost their lives.

“And it’s certainly nothing compared to the experiences of Jayne, a Porchlight worker who gave us a talk about homelessness before we bedded down for the night. Jayne struggled to survive years of sleeping rough in public toilets in Bristol City centre from the age of 14. She was a vulnerable teenager living totally alone and “invisible” with no support for years.

“Soon after her talk, Jayne left to find nine people sleeping rough that she’d just been alerted to. I hope she found them. She’s one of the many passionate and dedicated Porchlight staff I’ve had the honour of meeting. I’ve been in the NGO sector for over 30 years, but each time I see them in action, I am blown away by the passion and commitment of Porchlight's staff to do every last thing they can to support someone who needs help.

I am blown away by the passion and commitment of Porchlight's staff to do every last thing they can to support someone who needs help

“Helping someone to recover from homelessness is not just about providing practical help like housing and financial resources. It’s also about providing support that allows them to manage and recover from a severe mental health issue, substance misuse or social isolation. It’s what make Porchlight staff and services so vital.

“But funding for homelessness support in Kent is being cut, meaning organisations like Porchlight will struggle to help everyone who needs them. With the cost of living crisis pushing more people into poverty and mental ill health, along with the lingering effects of the pandemic, there has never been more demand for help.

“This is where the CEO Sleepout comes in.

“The money it raises will allow organisations like Porchlight to continue supporting people who have nowhere else to turn. And the event itself will raise awareness of these issues as business leaders and owners share their sleep out experiences with friends, families, and colleagues.

“The CEO Sleepout left me with dry eyes and a cold sore. It also left me with more fire in my belly to do all I can to challenge the grave injustices that leave people on our streets.

“If my experience has inspired you, please consider taking part in this year’s CEO Sleepout Kent for Porchlight."