Julie Frost, director of the Romford BID, said it was a “humbling experience” (credit: Julie Frost)
Around 30 people tried to wrap up warm as they spent last night sleeping on cardboard in the centre’s car park as part of The Brewery Sleepout 2021.
Manager Tom Stobbart said it was important they did it when it was cold rather than in the summer.
“I was one of the founders of wanting to do this and everyone said ‘we’ll do it in the summer’ and I said ‘no we’ll do it when it’s cold.’
“You have to push through one night and think actually people are doing this all year round,” explained Tom.
There are tens of thousands of families sleeping rough in Great Britain every night and nearly half of them are in London or the South East.
The number of homeless people in Havering has risen since the start of the pandemic and it’s feared it will keep rising as there is less government support available.
“There are people going through shelters in Romford who are young guys who have been kicked out of the family home,” added Tom.
“I met an 18-year-old guy who has been working at Kwik Fit who can’t afford a deposit for rent so he is homeless. He has got a job to go to, he just doesn’t have anywhere to sleep.
“I saw a young 19-year-old woman doing a college course on the computers they provide at the shelter. She’s in full time education but she’s homeless.”
This is the second time the shopping centre has held a sleepout, the first raised over £10,000 back in 2019.
Money raised this year will go to two charities, Romford based Ahava Community and Zarach, a charity that delivers beds and basics to children in poverty.
Kim Merry, founder of Ahava Community, said: “The public see the rough sleepers on the high street but don’t see the many riding on buses, sleeping behind stairwells or hidden in the parks.
“Homeless people are of all ages and from all social demographics. We can have a manager who has overseen 200 people sleeping on the streets alongside a young person who has had a disagreement with their parents, or has no parents at all.”
Research shows the longer someone spends sleeping rough the more likely they are to face mental health issues including addiction issues.
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