DARLINGTON’S business community is being urged to pull together and spend a night in the cold to help combat homelessness, amid warnings that many people in the area are ‘on the brink’ ahead of winter.

The annual CEO Sleepout is being staged on November 13 at Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Club.

The sleepout aims to raise thousands of pounds to help tackle a problem that’s only being exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.

“In this day and age, nobody should be forced to sleep on the streets. However, the sad reality is that too many people in Darlington don’t have a choice,” said Biance Robinson, CEO Sleepout chief executive officer.

She’s now called on business leaders across Darlington, Co Durham and Tees Valley to “swap their suits for sleeping bags” to help the area’s most vulnerable during the cold winter months and beyond.

Volunteers will spend the night under the stars, with little more than warm clothing, drinks and a sleeping bag for protection from the elements.

One brave participant is Paul Bannister, from the local charity ManHealth, who said he is “honoured” to take part in the 2023 event.

“ManHealth play an integral role in the Darlington Community providing guidance and support to thousands of men every year,” said Paul.

“We recognise that to thrive men need to be afforded their basic human rights, one of which is a place of shelter."

According to Bianca, the idea isn’t to replicate what those genuinely experiencing homelessness endure. Instead, the national event aims to raise awareness of just how hard life on the streets can be – and to raise the funds needed to combat it.

“Sleeping in the cold during November is a daunting prospect, but for thousands of people in the UK that’s the reality every single night,” she added.

“This isn’t designed to be easy, but it is an effective way of making people in the business community realise just how hard homelessness can be and, in many cases, how good they have it.”

Launched in 2013, CEO Sleepout has raised almost £4m to date for charities and good causes trying to combat homelessness.

Tracy Freeman is from the charity First Stop, one of the causes that will benefit from the 2023 event. The charity tackles poverty as a root cause of homelessness, and she said that the cost-of-living crisis has left many people in the area at risk of losing their homes.

“The funding raised for Darlington will be beneficial in providing support services to people in dire need of help, many of whom will also be struggling with anxiety and depression due to their circumstances,” said Tracy, who hopes to raise around £3,000 from the event.