Woman, 60, completes six month outdoor-sleeping challenge

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Image caption,
Ruth Legh-Smith has raised more than £3,000 for the Winter Night Shelter in Milton Keynes

A woman has completed a challenge of sleeping outside for six months to raise money for a homeless shelter.

Ruth Legh-Smith generated more than £3,000 for the Winter Night Shelter Milton Keynes, where she began volunteering after her husband died.

The 60-year-old started the challenge in March by sleeping without a tent in relatives' gardens.

Ms Legh-Smith said the thought of those who are forced to sleep rough got her through the six months.

"It's easy for me as I chose to do this," she said.

"I got my kit together and I have a life when I'm not sleeping outside.

"Lots of other people don't have the choice - they're suddenly on the streets and they've got nothing."

Image source, Ruth Legh-Smith
Image caption,
Ms Legh-Smith said the sleep out challenge was a "fitting tribute" to her husband Richard

Ms Legh-Smith, from Milton Keynes, said volunteering for the shelter helped her "carry on" after her husband Richard died unexpectedly in 2019.

The couple lived on a houseboat and would often spend months sailing in different countries, so Ms Legh-Smith thought the challenge would be "a fitting tribute to Richard and how we lived life together".

She slept in temperatures ranging from -4C in March to 35C in August, in a homemade kit consisting of a sleeping bag, tarpaulin, fleeces and an insulated windscreen cover.

"It was a cold start and one night the wind was so strong I thought I'd be a human kite," Ms Legh-Smith said.

"But the weather hasn't been too bad and you have to think about the people that won't have a custom-made kit when they are sleeping out in the winter."

Image caption,
Sara Millington from the Winter Night Shelter Milton Keynes said they were "very grateful" to Ms Legh-Smith

Sara Millington, from the shelter, said the funds had helped during a difficult time caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"There's only a limited amount you can do for fundraising online," she said.

"We typically run a lot of community events but this was something Ruth could do safely on her own and raise a good amount for the charity so we were really grateful to her."

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