This September a group of 10 St Mungo’s clients climbed Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak. The challenge was the idea of St Mungo’s client and volunteer Mandy. She explains more about how she wanted to take part to remember all those who have died sleeping rough and to show it is possible to recover from homelessness.
I’m Mandy, I live in Islington with my dog Skye and I volunteer for St Mungo’s, the charity that helps people experiencing homelessness. On 3 September, I stood on top of the highest peak in England and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.
St Mungo’s helped me when I was sleeping rough
Unfortunately, life hasn’t always been this good. Throughout my life, I have struggled with mental illness and, due to family problems, I found myself homeless. In 2014, I slept on the streets for two and a half weeks.
Living on the streets became so tough that it led to an attempted suicide. However, after visiting a local church for a shower and some food, I was introduced to St Mungo’s. They offered Skye and myself a place in a hostel and I have lived in their accommodation ever since.
I’ve come a long way since then, which is why last year I had the idea to climb a mountain with other people with experience of homelessness. I wanted to do this to show it is possible to recover from homelessness and to remember all those who aren’t as lucky as me, who have sadly died sleeping rough. Our first mountain in 2017 was Snowdon and this year, we chose Scafell Pike.
Preparing for the 3,210ft summit
So on 3 September 2018, we all caught the train from London to Penrith in the Lake District and nervously waited overnight for the next day’s climb.
We were a mixed group of 10 men and women. Our age, our fitness, our hiking experience and our mental and physical health needs were all varied. But, we had one thing in common; we all knew what it felt to be homeless and we all wanted to prove that it is possible to recover from it. We did this alongside St Mungo’s staff, supporters and volunteers.
After next to no sleep in our youth hostel in Borrowdale due to nerves and excitement, we set off the next day at 7.30am for Scafell Pike. Walking the streets of London is second nature for lots of us. However rocky, steep terrain is different and it became clear quite quickly that it was going to be a challenge to get us all to the top. In fact, half way up, our guides became concerned that some of the group would not make it.
Reaching the peak
It took resilience, determination and a lot of encouragement but every single person reached the peak. I’ll never forget that moment. I’ve spent my life hiding under a rock and suddenly I was on top of the highest one in England!
What we didn’t realise, was that making our way down was going to be even harder. It took over 12 and a half hours before we arrived back at our youth hostel at 8pm in the evening.
When my aching body got into bed that night, I thought about how far I’ve come in the last six years and how grateful I am that I now have a place to call home.