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​Charity fundraising sleepout cancelled after protest threat from activists

19th October 2016

Charity fundraising sleepout cancelled after protest threat from activists 

The launch of a major fundraising campaign to help the rising number of rough sleepers across Nottinghamshire has been sabotaged by activists who have forced the cancellation of a popular fundraising event.

The homeless charity Framework had been intending to use its flagship fundraising event – a sponsored sleep out – to launch its Off the Streets fundraising campaign but has taken the unprecedented step of cancelling the event after activists promised to disrupt it.
Framework, which supports and accommodates homeless and vulnerable people in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire as well as in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, has been holding its Big Sleep Out for more than 15 years.

This year’s event, planned for Saturday 26th November at Sneinton Market Square in Nottingham, was expected to raise more than £30,000 to kick start an urgent £230,000 fundraising appeal to support the growing number of people sleeping rough in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

However organisers of the event were recently alerted to a 'serious and credible' attempt to disrupt the event by members of two activists groups – Fightback Nottingham and OpGroundzer0. 

Framework claim the groups have threatened to occupy the site and harass participants.  
Framework Operations Director Michael Leng said:  “The proposed action of these groups is entirely counter-productive.  They claim to have the interests of homeless people at heart but are preventing public support for a realistic plan to help tackle the crisis of homelessness in Nottinghamshire. 

“The timing is also poignant: rough sleeping has more than doubled in England since 2010 and is at the highest levels in Nottingham for nearly 20 years: only last week 38 rough sleepers were found on a single night in the city.  

“The activists have a clearly stated intention to disrupt the Big Sleep Out and to harass our supporters. We cannot ignore that threat and have a duty to act in the best interests of those supporters."

Framework Chief Executive Andrew Redfern said: “Our primary concern at all our fundraising events is not – as these groups claim – about making money to enrich Framework.  It is about the well-being and safety of participants. Faced with what we know and the advice we have received, we simply cannot go ahead with this event with this threat hanging over it.

One of the activist groups involved, Opgrounderzer0 released the following statement on their Facebook page:"We acknowledge the good work that Framework does and wish them well in any fundraising events intended to relieve homelessness in Nottingham. Assurances were given to Framework that we had no desire to disrupt their event and any engagement that we had would be both peaceful and constructive.

"There is an increasing concern over Nottm City Council and Framework HA's repeated attempts to monopolise homeless support and aggressively freeze out any other group or individual wishing to help. It isn't understood whether the motivation for this is political, financial or simply egotistical.

"The services offered by NCC and Framework are far from perfect, there huge holes in the safety net and every day people slip through. We understand the regulatory, budgetary and legislative constraints that NCC and Framework operate under and fully accept that the faults are not of their making. Repeatedly, we have offered the hand of friendship and the willingness to work alongside them in plugging these gaps. Repeatedly, we have been turned away, forced out and smeared in the press.

"It now becomes clear that NCC and Framework have no intent to help those that have slipped through the gaps, preferring instead to sweep the problem away with a demonising ad campaign, a bullying system of enforcement and the the creation of a hostile environment for rough sleepers in the City of Nottingham.
"We believe that there is another way.
"We believe that all of our city centres should contain a safe space for the homeless. Here the residents have the benefits of living as part of a community, service providers have easier access to their clients and everybody is kept safe.
"We believe that CPO's and Police should be protecting, not intimidating vulnerable people.
"This is what we wanted to communicate to the participants of the Great Sleep Out. If the event has been cancelled then it has been done so in fear of the truth rather than in fear of disruption.
"Yet again we challenge Jon Collins, NCC and Framework to stop hiding behind press releases and publicly debate these issues."

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