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Sleep out to raise money


sleepout, Kairos, CoventrySupporters of a charity in Coventry will be sleeping rough to raise funds.

The Kairos Sleepout is a fundraising event where a team of staff, volunteers and Friends of Kairos Women Working Together (WWT) will be  sleeping rough in a car park in  Central Coventry.

And they need more people to join them in raising vital funds by ‘sleeping out’ for the night.

Kairos WWT supports women who are involved in sex work, or at risk of entering it in the Coventry area.

They do this in a variety of ways, from giving food and clothing to the women they work with, to offering advocacy and advice.

Currently Kairos supports around 40 women every month who are at risk of or subject to sexual exploitation.

I spoke to Kairos’s project manager, Lucia Leon, to find out more about why they are raising money in this way, and what the funds raised are to be for.

Why have you chosen to raise money in this particular way, rather than say, a sponsored walk or something similar?

Kairos WWT aims to support, empower and give a voice to women at risk of or subject to sexual exploitation, including those caught up in sex work and those aspiring to leave it.

Street-based sex workers are one of the most excluded and marginalised groups of homeless people and we wanted to run a fundraising event that was also about raising awareness about important issues that affect our service users.

Many of our service users have experienced episodes of homelessness and difficulties obtaining or retaining accommodation.

Our own research (2007) found that 70 per cent of our service users had experienced some type of housing difficulty and that, for most, this meant recurring or continual housing problems and that 25 per cent of our service users at that time had no fixed abode.

The Sleep Out not only provides an opportunity to raise money for Kairos WWT but also to gain a small insight into what it is like to have to sleep on the streets.

A report by Shelter (Off the Streets, 2004) highlighted the sobering risks associated with homelessness among female sex workers.

The consequences of street homelessness for female sex workers are dire.

These women face serious health problems, early mortality, violence, rape, and mental illness.

The barriers that our service users are up against are vast and complex and it seemed fitting that a fundraising initiative to meet the needs of our service-user users should be a challenge and test our own resilience and resourcefulness.

How does homelessness affect the women who Kairos WWT support?

One of the biggest problems for female street sex workers in Coventry is the lack of appropriate, safe and supportive accommodation.

Without stable accommodation, it is almost impossible for women to tackle the other barriers they might be facing, including their physical and mental health, lack of income, social exclusion and steps towards exiting sex work.

In Coventry, there is a definite lack of suitable accommodation for females involved in sex work and/or drug use.

Hostels and domestic-violence refuges often exclude sex workers because of their complex support needs.

Crisis accommodation and specialist accommodation for sex workers in Coventry is much needed if women affected by street sex work are going to have the best chance of staying safe and exiting sex work.

What will the funds raised be used for?

We are approaching the final year of our current funding cycle, and like any charity we are dependent on a fundraising strategy to ensure our work continues within the community.

While we are predominately funded through charitable trusts and foundations, we recently started a 12-month programme of fundraising activities to help meet the financial costs of the coming year and beyond…

Kairos offers a range of services to women in Coventry including a Street Outreach and Drop-In Service, Prison Inreach, Floating Support, a women’s development group, a Befriending Scheme and a Protective Behaviours Project aimed at raising awareness of young people of issues around sexual exploitation.

Our services are designed to meet the needs of our service-users at whatever stage they are in on their journey; from prevention, to harm reduction, to self-advocacy and exiting.

All of our fundraising initiatives are to meet the needs of these services.

How can people get involved?

Friends of Kairos can participate in the Sleepout. We are holding the event on 24 August from 7pm to 7am on 25 August.

Food and cardboard boxes will be provided to all participants.

If people want to support Kairos, but don’t fancy the sleeping rough bit, how can they do so?

We would be delighted with any sponsorship that could be raised in support of the Sleepout. We have a Big Give page where online donations can be made  or we would be happy for people to contact the team with donations.

For more information, call  02476 559550 or email here.

The deadline to sign up for the Sleepout is 9 August. You can find out more here.

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