NEARLY 100 people braved near-freezing temperatures to sleep rough on Saturday night in support of Southend YMCA.

Now in its second year, the Sleep Easy event aims to show those fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads what sleeping on the streets feels like – if only for a night.

Participants were sponsored with all funds going towards the YMCA.

Camping out in sleeping bags and on cardboard boxes, participants, including Echo reporters Philip Jones and David Trayner, slept on the cold, hard tarmac of the YMCA car park in Ambleside Drive.

For one mum, Claire, who has a 15-month-old baby, it was an emotional return to do her bit to help the people who helped her ten years ago.

“The YMCA saved my life,”

said the 26-year-old. “The work people do here is just amazing. I was 16 when I came here, saw a counsellor to help me and formed my own little family here.”

Claire, who didn’t want to give her last name, stayed at the YMCA for 11 months.

Now, with a family of her own, the mum felt it was her duty to come back and say thank you.

She added: “I felt like I had to come back here to say thank you.

This place starts so many people’s lives.”

Southend Standard:

Sophie, 26, and Lucy, 22, Beckwith

John Levy, housing manager at the YMCA, said he was amazed at the turnout. At the first Sleep Easy, 65 people braved temperatures of -4C.

He said: “It is really good to see people willing to suffer to help us. The ground is hard and cold and the temperature dropped to 1C overnight, but people are still smiling and dedicated to helping us out.

“We raise funds in all sorts of ways and this will help towards completing the purchase of another small property which is ideal for our expansion.”

The event was supported by local businesses with a group of workers from Waitrose, in Leigh, also taking part in the 12-hour sleepover.

Four workers from South Ockenden construction company HW Wilson also joined in.

One of the group, Phil Pearson, 42, said: “It was rough, I did feel cold and uncomfortable.

“But it is a sobering thought that I can go home and warm up, but there are so many people out there who have to do this every night.”

To find out more about Southend YMCA, visit southend