MBER 15, 2009 is a night that Seyi Obakin will always remember – the night he spent sleeping rough with the future King of England near Blackfriars Bridge. “It was not a pleasant experience,” said Obakin on the sub-zero conditions, who said Prince William was particularly struck by how the “sense of drift” could contribute to mental health issues.
Obakin has since slept rough “eight or nine times” since taking over as chief executive of homeless charity Centrepoint in early 2009, and last night the awareness-raising efforts continued with this year’s Sleep Out event in Exchange Square, which aims to raise “at least” £250,000 for the Home for Christmas campaign.
Conditions were more controlled for the City professionals who exchanged their central-heated homes for a night on the cold concrete of Liverpool Street, with a mobile kitchen run by a squadron from RAF Wittering, a song from X Factor finalist Rebecca Ferguson and sleeping bags resembling giant Jiffy bags.
“This is only a tiny taste of what it must be like to sleep rough night after night, said Drivas Jonas Deloitte partner Jon Milward, a patron of Centrepoint. “But at least it gives people a flavour of what it must be like for young people on the streets.”
Milward, who slept out following a day of back-to-back client meetings – “at least I will sleep well” – was last night joined by 600 others including bankers from Credit Agricole, lawyers from Herbert Smith and housebuilders from Taylor Wimpey. Not to mention TV presenters Richard Madeley of Richard & Judy and Rav Wilding of Crimewatch, who as The Capitalist left them to it at 10.30pm were being read a bedtime story by Christopher Biggins. “Once upon a time,” began the media personality, as the no-tent city started to drift off…