Youth homelessness in Oxfordshire highlighted this Christmas with 7-night sleep out Photographer Mike Sheil, 75, and former High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Jane Cranston, 70, will be spending 7 nights ‘sleeping rough’ in 7 churchyards in the south west Oxfordshire parish of Gainfield. From 12th-18th December 2021, Mike and Jane are giving up the warmth and comfort of their homes to raise awareness of the challenges and disadvantages young people face today - particularly homelessness - at a time when many people are preparing for the holiday season. ‘Mike’s Rough Sleep’ is raising vital funds for Youth Challenge Oxfordshire (YoCO) and Aspire, two Oxfordshire charities supporting local young people with wellbeing, education, training, employment and housing. Mike and Jane will be spending 7 nights in the grounds of Buckland, Charney Bassett, Hinton Waldrist, Littleworth, Longworth, Lyford and Pusey churches - with only minimal shelter and a sleeping bag. They will be joined by YoCO young people on Saturday 18th December. Mike Sheil, the creator of ‘Mike’s Rough Sleep’, says:"As a photographer, I have witnessed the impact of conflict and poverty upon children and, as a paid observer, it could even be said that I have profited from my documentation of their distress. So, it seems right and proper that, in turn, I should seek to support the next generation who are growing up in such bewildering times. I have chosen the seven churchyards of Gainfield as a shelter throughout our week of rough sleeping, as churches have long been regarded as a sheltering haven in times of need." Jane Cranston, Chair of YoCO and High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 2017/8, says:"Homelessness is a cause very close to my heart and as Chair of both YoCO and Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, I believe that nobody should have to sleep rough on the streets of Oxfordshire. I’m ‘celebrating’ turning 70 by sleeping out for 7 nights and as Christmas and the December holiday season is a time of giving, I hope I will help raise awareness and much needed funds so that nobody is forgotten this year." Dominique Cadiou, Head of Fundraising & Communications at Aspire, says:"Aspire is absolutely thrilled to be chosen as a beneficiary for Mike’s Rough Sleep. We run two projects for young people not in education, training or employment, or facing homelessness - and we would love to increase awareness of the support we offer for young people as we approach winter. As part of our 20th anniversary appeal, we have committed to expand our dedicated homelessness prevention, housing and employment support for young people at risk as COVID-19 measures come to an end - so we are incredibly grateful to Mike and Jane for giving Aspire a platform." Christine Douglas, trustee for YoCO, says:"We’re very proud that Jane, our Chairperson, and some YoCO young people from Blackbird Leys, are leading YoCO’s fundraising from the front by joining Mike’s Rough Sleep. At YoCO we believe a home should be a welcoming and safe place, not just a roof over your head, but sadly we know this is not always true. Vulnerable young people join our YoCO programme to build their confidence and self-esteem, enabling them to manage and overcome personal challenges such as mental health issues, pressures of social media, bullying and detrimental peer pressure. We are delighted that funds raised from the Rough Sleep will help us to continue our work to ensure everyone has an opportunity to live a rewarding life - thank you Mike and Jane!" For further information, or photos, on Mike’s Rough Sleep, please contact Mike Sheil at [email protected] or on 07860 508679. To donate and find out more, visit the Mike’s Rough Sleep fundraising page.