Wiltshire Police’s Volunteer Cadets took part in a sleep out challenge to raise awareness about homelessness and money for those without a place to call home.
The group of 26 cadets aged 13 – 17, from Wiltshire’s four cadet units in Chippenham, Trowbridge, Salisbury and Swindon slept outside in the grounds of Devizes Police Headquarters.
Despite the snow and helped by a large supply of hot chocolate they raised more than £2800, which will be shared between three Wiltshire charities; Threshold Housing link, Breakthrough and Alabaré Christian Care & Support.
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, who is an advocate for those who are homeless, and helps to run the Swindon soup kitchen, the Filling Station, joined the group for the challenge.
Mr Macpherson said: “I have a strong personal commitment to those who sleep rough, so I was happy to join the cadets and support the sleep out to raise awareness of homelessness.
“The event gives our police cadets a taste of what it is like to sleep out on a damp and cold night in winter.
“The message I would like them to take away is that they were able to go home and get dry and warm. They would not have to get back into a wet sleeping bag for another night of sleeping rough.
“It is also important to understand that people are not homeless through choice. They will often find themselves on the street for a complex range of reasons such as family breakdown, debt, alcohol or drug abuse, redundancy or mental health problems.
“The younger rough sleepers are no different, in essence, to the cadets. Two or three years ago they were at school just like the cadets.
“Then there are those who are 30 something. The longer people are out of a home, the harder it is to get a roof over their heads again.
“You need to intervene and break the cycle, but that is easier said than done.”
Wiltshire Police Youth Engagement lead, Sergeant Steve McGlynn, said: “I am very proud of the cadets for completing this challenge.
“It was important for us to do something for others and taking part in the sleep out has improved our cadet’s awareness and knowledge about homelessness.
“This experience will teach the cadets to consider the wider context and not judge people because of the situation they find themselves in, a valuable skill to have both as a young person and an adult.
“Thank you to all the cadets who took part, and the parents, friends, and adults who supported them through the challenge.”