How did you sleep last night? Was your bed comfortable? How about those teeth - did you get a chance to brush them?
At least 75,000 children and young people experienced homelessness in the UK in the last year. This October, you could experience what it feels like to be homeless just for one night.
Byte Night is the IT industry's annual sleep-out in support of Action for Children, one of the UK's largest children's charities, committed to addressing youth homelessness and child neglect. Since it started back in 1998, the annual sleep-out has raised more than £2.5m for the charity. What's perhaps most striking is that in 2009, in the worst recession for some time, Byte Night secured the highest financial support since its inception, almost £550,000. That says a lot about the commitment the UK IT sector has to helping those less fortunate, and as the economy hints at stabilising again it's important we don't forget that.
Now the purse strings are beginning to open for organisations to reinvest in areas of their business that may have suffered during the past year, it's crucial that we don't forget many of the forums outside our own places of work where even the smallest donation goes a long way to help people in need.
Many charities around the UK pulled up their bootstraps and stuck through what was an incredibly tough financial period, and while some organisations' balance-books go back into the black, charities will continue to lean on generous donors who remember that every little penny for them counts. In fact, it was recently reported that the government is encouraging anyone and everyone who can to donate 1% of their income to charities to help with voluntary sector cuts. For Byte Night, just a £5 donation could help to pay for emergency overnight support for a young person living on the street, and £10 could help pay for a one-to-one advice session for a young person leaving care. Every penny can add up to significant funding to put towards helping homeless and neglected youths with vital independence skills, training opportunities and access to employment.
I first became involved in Byte Night three years ago as a participant on a company team and it's a cause that is very dear to me. In 2008, my former company's team was able to raise £5,000, and in 2009, our TalkTalk team surpassed that, raising £6,000. This year, we are raising the bar even higher. It's an opportunity to foster team-building outside the office and serves as an important reminder to all who participate that we can have an even greater impact as a team than as individuals in helping those in need.
Byte Night offers just a glimpse into how terrible it must be to be homeless, especially as a child. When we have security, sleeping bags and toilets to take us through a less than comfortable night, it's hard to imagine that hundreds of children brave many UK city streets with just the shoes on their feet and clothes on their backs. Byte Night is not only a way to get involved and support those young people who have already been adversely affected by homelessness, but also an opportunity to make a donation that we know will go straight to helping prevent other children from enduring the same fate.
I think Byte Night is a hidden gem. It's a chance for us all to do a little something extra for children who have nowhere else to turn and to educate ourselves about the dire needs of those we likely pass on our way to work each day. Since Byte Night is run on a low budget with minimal expenditure - facilities and resources are provided by corporate sponsors and individuals - it means financial contributions have maximum impact and go directly to those who need it most. Please join me in pledging support for homeless and neglected young people by registering for Byte Night's annual sleep-out or making a donation to this very worthy cause.
Steve Clarke is systems & operations director at The TalkTalk Group. This year's Byte Night sleep-out takes place on 8th October.