YouTuber sleeps out in cold for charity

LAUREN O’CONNOR-MAY

Popular YouTuber and father of two, Devon Saunders, spent three nights atop scaffolding as part of a donation drive for homeless shelters.

Mr Saunders, of Monte Vista, who has 55 000 followers on his YouTube channel, devdondidit, spent three nights on the scaffolding, erected at the Jazz Castle in Victoria Road, Plumstead, after the rooftop of the establishment, which was supposed to be his squatting venue, was flooded because of severe weather conditions.

The initiative, dubbed #WeDidIt Winter Campaign, was a follow-up to last year’s successful Warm Blanket Challenge.

The aim was to raise 5 000 blankets and warm winter clothing. This target was achieved within an hour.

In his YouTube video launching the campaign last week, Mr Saunders challenged his viewers to bring their “unwanted” goods or “anything you can contribute”.

Some people took the request literally and volunteers sorting through the clothing had a bit of fun modelling donated belly dancing outfits – minus a few trinkets – and brightly coloured G-strings over their clothes.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Mr Saunders, despite not being completely exposed to the elements on the scaffolding, experienced stormy weather during his open-air sleep over.

On Friday April 29, after the first night of the challenge, a groggy and subdued Mr Saunders, a far cry from the usual bubbly, energetic YouTube poster, chatted to the Bulletin.

“I was feeling very vulnerable during the night,” he said, adding that he had only managed to sleep for roughly four hours.”

At some point during the extreme weather, four homeless people joined him on the scaffolding, he said.

“I experienced gale force winds and driving rain. I heard other homeless people milling around on the streets,” he said.

The uncomfortable experience was humbling, Mr Saunders said.

“It’s been eye-opening for me as to just how priviledged I am to sleep in a warm bed at night,” he said.

“We all have our plans for the next day, for the next week but the homeless, they live day-to-day. There’s nothing that they can look forward to. Yet they always have a smile on their face.”

The campaign, which was advertised entirely on social media platforms, was a huge success. At its closing more than 15 000 items of clothing had been collected.

Mr Saunders and his partner in the venture, Michelle McLachlan from Faith, Hope and Charity, will be distributing the collected items to various homeless shelters.

Ms McLachlan said: “The #WeDidIt Winter Campaign is a fantastic vehicle to assist in bringing in much needed winter clothes and blankets, as well as being the perfect platform to remind Capetonians of the dire living conditions homeless individuals find themselves in – especially in the cold, stormy winter months.”

Suzette Little, the City’s mayoral committee member for social development and early child- hood development, said that according to Street People Research 2014/15 which had been completed by her diretorate, about 7 000 people are homeless in Cape Town.