Vinnies CEO Sleepout 2020
Almost 170 Canberrans slept rough last Thursday evening, June 18, to raise money for homelessness as part of the annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout. Many were Catholic principals and teachers with the ACT participants so far raising $522,293. Nationally, 1550 business and community leaders joined in, raising more than $5 million. Here, principals Loretta Wholley (below left) and David Austin (below right), who together raised $20,000, share their Sleepout stories.
Soup, bread and sleeping rough
MORE than 60 Merici students joined staff “sleeping rough” in the school’s New Quad to raise funds for Canberra’s homeless.
The group braved the minus one degree temperature to experience a small part of the reality of homelessness and learn about the issue, sleeping on cardboard but with the luxury of sleeping bags and warm clothes.
Principal Loretta Wholley said the night was a bonding experience that helped promote empathy for the cause.
“With over $11,200 raised this year, I am so appreciative to the Merici families and wider community who have supported the College,” Loretta said.
“We are fortunate! We get to go home and have a hot shower which is not what homeless people in Australia get to do.
“This is just a one-night experience to raise awareness. In the end, it is a very small bit of pain for a lot of gain.”
Social Justice Captain Jacinta Wright said her top priority in the role was raising awareness about homelessness and Vinnies’ valuable work.
“Sleeping outside in freezing temperatures is a reality for some that many people do not understand,” Jacinta said.
“The Sleepout really opened our eyes to their situations and we could experience their struggles by physically putting ourselves in their shoes.”
The group shared a meal of soup and bread before reflecting on the harsh realities of not having guaranteed food every day.
Vinnies Youth Liaison Officer Therese Canty spoke to the group about homelessness in Canberra while two volunteers from the Night Patrol Van spoke about how the community can help homeless people.
“The Vinnies Sleepout has given me a tiny glimpse into what people without a secure home in Australia have to do from day to day.” College Captain Zoe Beresford.
“It made me grateful that I have a warm bed and a roof over my head. And to realise the harsh conditions people face and how grateful we all should be.” Amy Redmond, Year 10.
“The night patrol opened my eyes to the conditions people across Australia are living in daily.” Lauren Toole, Year 12.
• To donate to the Vinnies CEO Sleepout go to www.ceosleepout.org.au
A piece of cardboard on my front porch
By David Austin
IT astounds me that more than 116,000 Australians sleep rough each and every night with many people on the streets.
Last Thursday evening was my third Vinnies CEO Sleepout.
To be able to sleep rough for just one night, in the middle of Canberra’s freezing winter, and raise funds and awareness, is the least I can do.
In previous years I have participated with many other CEOs in an iconic Canberra location.
This year, due to the pandemic, we could sleep rough on our couch, in our car or in our backyard.
The choice for me was easy; sleep rough with a piece of cardboard under me, a sleeping bag and pillow out in the freezing elements on my front porch.
The evening started at 7:30pm watching a ‘live stream’ of the event and hearing stories of people who have been homeless and have come out the other end, because of the support from Vinnies.
These interviews had a profound effect on me, and we were encouraged and challenged to reflect on the plight of homelessness every time we woke up … which I did … a lot!
They should change the name to ‘CEO Wakeout’, because it is extremely difficult to sleep on a piece of cardboard, on top of concrete, in the height of a Canberra winter with temperatures dropping below freezing.
I felt I could get warm enough with plenty of layers and burying myself in my sleeping bag but the challenge was comfort; how to actually sleep on the hard surface and being aware of every noise around you.
I reflected, often, that this is the reality for many in our community and how unacceptable that is.
To raise over $8000 for this cause is something I am extremely proud of. And I am extremely grateful for the financial support from family, friends, students, parents and other schools.
I was blown away with people’s generosity.
As a volunteer with the Vinnies Night Patrol for more than six years, I not only see the great work this program provides, but also see the plight of homelessness first hand when I meet and speak to people doing it tough in our city.
It is an outstanding service that needs financial support as there is no government funding.
• David Austin is the principal of Good Shepherd Primary School in Amaroo