Picture a cold, crisp wintery night. Unforgiving in its nature and harsh in its delivery. This is the time of year where Britain’s homeless community tackle the brutal force of the festive season in its entirety with little to no shelter.
Everyday people know little of the trials and tribulations faced by those who call the streets their home. But on a Friday night, 5th October, a group of selfless individuals banded together to take shelter under Prenton Park’s Kop Stand in order to brave the elements and raise awareness for the homeless in their county.
Walking through the entrance, you could feel the embrace of a community trying to stick their necks out for the less fortunate in their province. Greeted with a smile and friendly presence from the Wirral Ark staff, a homeless charity which organised the event, we spoke to their finance controller Merril Grundy first on the aim of this night:
“We’re all about raising awareness because we all see the odd person on the streets sleeping rough but come out and do this for a night and feel how they really do this,” said Grundy.
“This is about the slightly realistic way of being on the streets, from six in the evening till six in the morning with nothing for you to do.
“I mean we are lucky here in the sense that they have seats and some shelter, they have toilets, the homeless don’t have any of those, but unless you try an event like this you don’t appreciate what it is they suffer.
“The number of beatings, people getting urinated on is on the rise and the life expectancy for someone on the streets is around 45 rather than being in the 70s for an average person.
“It’s a really bad way of life, so people really need to understand it.”
As much as this is an event telling a serious story, there is nothing but a great atmosphere from the people brave enough to turn up.
Flasks of hot drinks were provided, as well as steaming soup and food – there is a real togetherness in the cause.
“We had a number of meetings early on about what we were going to do, who we were trying to aim the event at, and Tranmere were happy to support the idea and provide the infrastructure, stadium, staffing, financial support, stewarding and all those other things,” said Events Coordinator, Pete McDevitt.
“We have publicised it a lot; in the Match Day programme, pages in the programme, all for games that had an attendance of around 9,000 people, it’s been on the billboard, so there’s guys here from the supporter’s club – so it’s great there’s supporters of the club who have come out for the cause.”
One of those supporters is Rovers diehard Pete McArdle, who couldn’t resist the opportunity to represent the Super White Army while raising money for a good cause:
“The reason I came out here is because you can walk round a big city and just be astounded by the level of homelessness, it just seems to be getting worse and worse,” said McArdle.
“When I saw the event, and because I’m a fan of the club, I just felt it was right for me.
“This is my time to do something and give a little bit back and I’m happy we could raise a decent amount of money for the great cause.
“Other clubs do stuff like this, Southampton for instance, but Tranmere go above and beyond for the community and that’s something I really respect about the club. It’s something that I really buy into.”
Other members of the Kip in the Kop tribe came for slightly different reasons, for instance,
The foundation, set up by Paul’s best friends to raise awareness for domestic violence against men, were there to help their own noble initiative as well as support the homeless.
“We’re here to raise awareness for the homeless obviously, but also to raise awareness for our foundation that we’ve set up,” said Lawrence from the foundation.
“We don’t know where we’re going with it yet, but people who do contact us with these kinds of issues will be redirected the best help lines.
“Until we started this, we didn’t know how bad it [domestic abuse] was, we are only just skimming the surface, but we’ll get there.
“We’re doing this for our great friend. We want to give something back to anyone else that was in this position.”
From all walks of life, many members of the community came together, did the gruelling 12-hour challenge and managed to raise over £10,000 that will be donated to homeless charities throughout the Wirral.