Mass sleep-out of Manchester businessmen to raise plight of 100,000 youths sleeping rough every night

By Judith Hawkins

As 100,000 homeless youths will brave the rain and cold tonight across the UK, more than 170 IT and business experts will join them in Audenshaw

They hope to raise £100,000 in aid of Action for Children in the first time the annual Byte Night has taken place in Manchester.

Simultaneous sleep outs are taking place across the country in cities including Edinburgh, London and Birmingham. The nationwide target is to raise £1million.

The statistics on Byte Night’s website paint a stark picture of youth homelessness, with one in three attempting to take their own life and one in seven being sexually abused.

Braving the rainy weather with just sleeping bags and the odd tipple to keep them warm, those participating will experience a night in the life of the 100,000 young people who are homeless each year.

Fundraiser at Action for Children, Kelly Ralph, said: “The support and enthusiasm for our first ever Byte Night has been incredible and we’re very grateful to everybody taking part. There is a genuine appetite amongst participants to transform the lives of the young people we work with.

“The night itself looks to be a huge success, and like all our sleepers, I am just hoping the rain stays away!”

One of those taking part in Manchester tonight is Nikki Scrivener, Director of Fourth Day PR, who said: “What is so special about the Byte Night is that it’s a challenge. It will be cold, wet and exhausting but we’re happy to do it for a great cause.

“I’ve done the Byte Night before in London and there is always a great community spirit. It’s right that it’s come to Manchester with its growing number of digital companies, and staff from big corporations to start-ups will be there.”

The Byte Night started 16 years ago when 30 people in the IT industry raised £35,000 by sleeping rough. Since then the annual event has raised £5.2 million in total.

This year the money raised through sponsorship of sleepers in Manchester will support services Action for Children provide for young people in the North West.

They include the Knowsley Young Junior Mentors service, which offers mentors for children aged five to 11 needing guidance.

The mentors build a relationship with the child over a year, working with them on skills such as communication, anger management and self-esteem. Since the service no longer receives any local government funding, it has relied on events like the Byte Night to keep it going.

Another service supported by the Byte Night is the Millom Youth Project, a network of youth groups that run out-of-school activities for young people who might otherwise fall into alcohol or substance abuse.

Carol Iddon, Director of Children’s Services at Action for Children, said: “We offer a variety of services which aim to tackle problems before they escalate to crises, stopping young people from becoming another homelessness statistic.

“Youth homelessness can have devastating long-term effects on personal and social wellbeing – making it difficult for young people to get a good education and find employment, and having a lasting impact on their self-worth.”

The Byte Night North West will be held at the Audenshaw Campus of electronics company Brother from 6pm to 6am. For those who want to donate to Action for Children but aren’t able to sleep out, you can text the word BYTE13 to 70070 to donate £5.

For more information and to register for Byte Night, click here.

Image courtesy of Deadly Sirius via Flickr, with thanks.

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