On Saturday 26 September, 112 Oundle School pupils and seven members of staff headed to Birmingham to experience a night under cardboard in a car park at St Basils, one of the largest and most successful agencies in the United Kingdom working with young homeless people.
For one night, pupils had a taste of the reality experienced by the thousands of people in this country, who sleep rough night after night. It is hoped that as well as raising awareness of the plight of homeless people, the SleepOut will raise in excess of £8000 for this very worthy charity. Various talks on the work of St Basils were given throughout the evening by organisers and residents.
Liz Dillarstone, Head of Community Action at Oundle School, commented “We hope that our pupils will gain a deeper understanding of homeless issues as a result of this exercise and that they will be inspired by the work of St Basils, which relies heavily on fundraising to support its programme. St Basils provides this bespoke event for our bi-annual Community Action Field Weekend.”
Guy D’Oyly (15) commented, “We had some talks from some people who had benefitted from the work of St Basils, which made us realise how much good work St Basils does. Sleeping rough was really eye opening and it made us think how lucky we are.”
Sarah Boyle (17) added, “As we tucked ourselves up in our plastic bags and cardboard boxes, the experience became more of a lesson. Only then were we able to translate the cold and discomfort we were feeling into what this experience must be like for two months or more. Talking to the young people who had benefitted from the work of St Basils was a humbling moment from which we gathered a resounding feeling of respect for their bravery - for what they had both lived through and overcome.”
Daisy Sinclair (15) said, “It was really inspirational hearing from young people who had themselves slept rough and been helped by St Basils and we were very grateful to them giving up their time to come and talk to us.”
The story of St Basils began on 1 October 1972 when the doors of the hall at the disused Anglican Church in Heath Mill Lane, Deritend, Birmingham, were opened and the first night shelter specifically for young men opened for business.
It was the brainchild of Rev. Les Milner, an Anglican priest who was to dedicate the next twenty-eight years of his life to working with young homeless men and women. It was a decision that was to affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people in and around Birmingham.
That first night shelter became known as ‘The Boot’ (probably because the young men had been ‘booted’ out of their previous homes) and became the foundation on which the rest of the organisation was built.
Oundle School’s connection with St Basils dates back to the opening of the The Boot. The then Head of Community Service and English teacher at Oundle School, Jeremy Firth, approached Les Milner offering the help of a group of pupils from Oundle School with the renovation of St Basils, then a derelict church in Deritend. This forged a link between St Basils and Oundle School which was formalised in 1995 when pupils first attended the annual St Basils SleepOut. Pupils and staff have participated in the SleepOuts ever since.
Fundraising Organiser at St Basils, Steve Rainbow commented, "Oundle School has been involved with the St Basils SleepOut for many years and has helped develop it into the event it is today. This latest branch of SleepOut has been tailor made to suit the requirements of the School in fulfilling its community work programme and it is something that could be rolled out to other large schools who wish to raise awareness of homelessness to their pupils. Oundle hopes to raise over £8000 from this venture and in doing so continue the support it has given St Basils in their fight against youth homelessness."
After “The Boot”, St Basils soon realised the needs of young women and Yardley House was opened to serve that group of society and it was followed by more projects to bring young people off the streets and into safety.
Les realised that this, though good, was not enough. The standards of accommodation had to be raised and the ambitions of the residents met.
The next breakthrough came in 1984 when “The Boot” was closed. By then it was realised that the dormitory accommodation was no way to help a young person back into independence. The replacement project “The New Boot” had separate bedrooms for everyone, a door that they could close behind them and a place, though temporary, that they could call their own. It was the start of the change that now sees every person having a room of their own and some space in which to develop.
Today St Basils is the largest regional organisation in the UK working with young people who are homeless or in danger of homelessness. Every year St Basils supports up to 5000 16-25 year olds, accommodates over 1,000 helping them with advice, education and support.’ In 2000 Rev Les Milner retired and, unfortunately, passed away two years later.
The new Chief Executive, Jean Templeton, came with a housing background and a zeal for growing on the foundations that Les had laid. The new St Basils continues to see young people as its absolute priority and has grown into a ground-breaking innovative organisation that works with partners across Local Government, Industry and Commerce, Housing Associations and many others.
St Basils has been recognised as’ the national Registered Social Landlord 'RSL' Centre of Excellence in the prevention of youth homelessness and one of the largest agencies in the United Kingdom working with young people who may be at risk of homelessness or actually homeless. For further information visit http://www.stbasils.org.uk
Background information on St Basils
Services offered include a wide range of support for young people both living in St Basils accommodation and for those who are not. The aim is to prevent any young person from becoming homeless in the first place and to make sure that those who do come to St Basils can gain the skills needed to sustain their own tenancies. It provides family mediation, housing advice, training and education opportunities. Working in schools and youth settings enables young people to be reached before they get to a crisis point. Key areas covered are:
The head office and majority of bed spaces and services are based in Birmingham but the charity also now provide a range of accommodation and homeless prevention services in Solihull, North Worcestershire, Sandwell and Coventry. In addition St Basils is also working with other local authorities in the West Midlands region.
St Basils, Heath Mill Lane, Deritend, Birmingham B9 4AX .Tel 0121-772-2483.
Two main levels of accommodation are offered which cater for up to 400 young people:
Emergency accommodation, sometimes called 'direct access', is for young people who are in immediate need of accommodation or who are are facing homelessness within the next month.
Supported accommodation comes with various levels of support. From 24 hour staff on site, to occasional cover and home visits including a number of independent and semi independent self contained flats and bedsits. A young person will be able to experience a level of independence with the option of accessing services and support as they see fit.
Background Information on Oundle School
Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.
The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion which opened in April 2015.
There are currently 1110 pupils are on roll at Oundle School, with 860 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11.