Great Tommy Sleepout

Imagine being homeless and sleeping on the streets with just cardboard and a thin blanket to keep you warm at night, after serving your country as a member of the armed forces.

Darlington paramedic Kevin Cudbertson will find out first hand when he spends the night outside North East Ambulance Service’s headquarters in Newcastle to raise awareness of veteran homelessness.

Kevin, a former submariner in the Royal Navy, is taking part in Royal British Legion Industries’ (RBLI) Great Tommy Sleepout on Tuesday, 29 March. The money raised goes to supporting the estimated 6,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in the UK.

To make the experience as realistic as possible, Kevin is choosing to use cardboard and blankets as a bed, rather than the more comfortable option of a tent and sleeping bag.

Kevin joined the Royal Navy in when he was 16 and served for 17 years before joining West Country Ambulance Service (now South West Ambulance Service) working on for their patient transport service, before moving to emergency care.

Originally from Darlington, Kevin, his wife Sarah and daughter, Tilly, 12, moved from Plymouth to Sedgefield six years ago. He now works as a paramedic based at Darlington Station.

Kevin, 49, said: “I liked the Navy but I really always wanted to join the ambulance service. My mum was a nurse and my dad was a truck driver so maybe that’s where it came from.”

Asked why he wants to take part in the sleep out, he added: “It’s estimated that there are about 6,000 homeless military veterans in the UK and as we live in one of the richest countries in the world this fact is absolutely disgraceful.

“These men and woman have given everything for our country and our freedoms and I'm really proud to be taking part in this event which raises awareness to highlight this important issue.

“It’s a strange request to sleep outside Trust headquarters and I'm really grateful to NEAS for getting behind this campaign.”

Karen Gardner, head of workforce development leads on the work undertaken as part of our Armed Forces Covenant. She said: “NEAS has many colleagues who are both veterans and are still serving as reservists in the Armed Forces. We are immensely proud of all of our staff and in respect of our reservist staff and veterans we recognise both their service within the military and also their ongoing commitment to the people in the North East in their roles within the organisation.

“We are really proud of Kevin, who wants to do this to support these men and woman who have given so much for our country. We have supported Kevin in his challenge and we want everyone to show their support in raising awareness for this campaign”

You can donate to Kevin’s challenge here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/5194709423892644/

NEAS signed the Armed Forces Covenant in December 2020, and received the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Silver Award from the Ministry of Defence in September 2021, in recognition of our commitment to those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families.

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