Published: 14:36, 16 May 2022
| Updated: 14:38, 16 May 2022
Business leaders spent a night under the stars in the first 'CEO Sleepout' in Kent.
The event, which was hosted in the grounds of Leeds Castle, Maidstone, aims to raise more than £30,000 for two local homeless charities.
The national initiative collects vital funds to combat homelessness by asking company owners, managers and executives to sleep outside to experience one night of what those who are homeless encounter.
It has raised more than £3million since it launched in 2013.
Golding Homes' new chief executive, Steph Goad, was one of the 27 bosses who took part.
Speaking after the sleepout, she said: “We know in the current climate people are finding it tough.
"The number of homeless people in the county and those at risk from homelessness is rising and we all need to do our bit to change the situation.
"Last night in Kent over 1,000 people were sleeping on the streets.
“I’ve worked with Porchlight for five years and their focus is on making lasting change, working with people on the issues that led them to become homeless.
“I hope the sleepout event will help with both awareness and fundraising. One night out in the open with just a sleeping bag was hard, but I have a hot shower and food to come home to.
"For too many people that’s not an option.”
Steph has personally raised £1,200 so far, and the initiative is aiming to obtain between £40-50,000 from all the events this year.
The money from the evening will be donated to two Kent-based charities - Porchlight and the Street Soccer Foundation.
Jo Dawes, director of fundraising and communications at Porchlight, said: “We’re thrilled to be benefitting from Kent’s first CEO Sleepout event.
“We hope having business leaders come together in such an iconic venue can help shine a light on the realities of the day-to-day life of the homeless population in our local area.
“Money from this event will allow us to support people living on the streets and those at risk of homelessness.
“It will keep our helpline running for those struggling with their mental health. A donation of £50 is the cost of 10 calls to our helplines, which lets us support 10 vulnerable people.
She added: “The event is timely, as the cost of living is increasing at a dramatic rate and local residents are among the worst affected.
"We’re already hearing from an increasing number of people who can’t afford to feed themselves – we’re bracing ourselves for a homelessness crisis in Kent.”