So, last year I was invited to a networking event at the Geelong Cats, and I had no idea what it was about or who would be there. Naïve me, shows up dateless and ready to meet some of the businesspeople and CEO’s of Geelong, for networking. What I was actually met with blew my mind…
Let me tell you some facts about homelessness in Australia, because to be 100% truthful, I had no fucking idea it was this bad…
– 1 in 200 Australians experience homelessness at some point in there life
– 120,000 Australian’s are currently homeless
– 76% of those homeless people are male and 44% are female
– 60% of homeless people are under the age of 35, and
– 18,000 homeless people are children under the age of ten.
Fortunately, I have never personally experienced homelessness, and I am unbelievably grateful for that every damn day. We are so fortunate to be born into the world and the lives that we are. We are lucky to have jobs, families, businesses, education, money, homes, vehicles, our health and our lives.
If you don’t know much about Vinnie’s, they’re an incredible organisation run mostly by volunteers and they provide vital access to food and accommodation for people experiencing homelessness. They also provide employment and health services, counselling and education to help people overcome poverty in the long-term.
Vinnie’s created the “CEO Sleepout” for leaders in business, community and government to fundraise to help their cause. Us participating ‘CEOs’ slept outside, in the freezing cold, smack bang in the middle of our Geelong Winter, in June, in nothing but a sleeping bag and a cardboard box.
Unfortunately, in 2018 I was whisked away on a working trip interstate and was unable to attend, but I preregistered myself for 2019 and I was excited. So, wanna know about my sleepout?
I have to admit, we lucked out, being that we got down to only 7 degrees that night (warmer than your standard Geelong Winter’s night) we also got no rain, but it was hellllla windy. We all arrived at around 7pm to hot soup and pieces of fruit, like you would experience in a shelter, and we spent a few hours in the evening networking with the other 77 CEOs, Vinnie’s volunteers, and watching multiple speakers talk about their personal experience with homelessness, and I was bought to tears.
The strength and resilience of some humans is nothing short of phenomenal, and Vinnie’s do an incredible job of helping people living under these circumstances get back to a normal life.
So around 10.30pm it was time to sleep. My friends Tess Lunney of Knockout Brows, Kale McCain of KLM Plumbing and Luke Outerbridge of Proxy Design and Geelong Young Professionals, were all lined up side by side in our cardboard box tepee’s. Freezing cold, lights flashing, train and traffic noises, as well as concrete + cardboard under my hairdressers back, it wasn’t pretty.
I’d honestly say I got an hour sleep max. I was fidgety and twitchy and couldn’t get comfy at all. I actually bailed at 5am because I had to work the next day and I was EXHAUSTED. I have a whole new level of understanding of how hard it would be for homeless people being forced to live like this.
Everyone deserves a safe place to call home.
While the Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout is a nation-wide initiative, I’d like to give a shout out to our legendary Geelong leaders who collectively raised $226,722. My personal contribution of $3,297 was a small but significant portion of that, and I would personally like to thank each and every one of my sponsors who supported me in this venture. You have changed lives.
Congratulations to Vinnie’s and all participants who in 2019 raised an astounding, record-breaking $7,932,806 for the CEO Sleepout. LEGENDS!
If you want to donate or register to participate in 2020 – do it at www.ceosleepout.org.au – it was a lifechanging experience for me and an amazing opportunity to give back.