Mike Tobin, founder of CEO Sleepout, shares his story

Posted by / Thursday 17 March 2016 /

"As a child I experienced all sorts of struggles, one of these was homelessness."

"I’ve been working with Action for Children for many years now to help them share their message and raise vital funds for vulnerable children. One of my favourite fundraising projects is the annual CEO Sleepout event, but not just because it is so effective, because it reminds me how lucky I am, and how different my life could have been.

I witnessed my mother battle appalling violence at the hands of my father. In desperation my mother escaped and before we knew it, my mother, brother and I were heading to Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, for a new life.

Sadly peace just wasn’t to be our fate, we were in the midst of the countries own issues, and after years of surviving civil unrest we headed back to the UK to escape the violence; essentially refugees into our own country!


We had nowhere to live so we took up residence in an old squat in Stockwell. We had no money either and we did what we could to find things to sell, including old pianos we scavenged from condemned houses nearby. We learned to make a £10 sale go a long way – but hot meals, safety, security and warmth were a luxury we couldn’t afford. Homelessness was our new challenge.

So I know how it feels to be at risk of being homeless and being vulnerable to abuse and violence. I know how it feels to feel condemned to a non-existent life, to be looked down on by passers-by and to be at risk every second of the day and night.

Creating the CEO Sleepout for Action for Children back in 2014 brought back a lot of memories for me. But I’m lucky – they are just memories, I survived and found my own way, and this is no longer my life. For too many children there is no such light at the end of the tunnel.

Sleeping out in the city can’t and shouldn’t be compared to homelessness. Someone once said to me after an event that they knew what homeless kids must go through now. My reply may have been a surprise:

"You may think you understand what homeless kids go through, but you have no idea because all night you knew that in the morning it would be over. For these children it starts again every morning. You take your feeling of discomfort, cold, wet and irritation from lack of sleep and you add despair and fear of being beaten up, mugged or worse. So you’ll never really know … but it’s a good start."

I’m looking forward to the 2016 CEO Sleepout as it’s another chance to spread the message that the UK has too many children living on the streets – children who are just as entitled to the warmth and safety of a home as you and I."


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