Our Managing Director Phil Vernon shares his experience meeting displaced and homeless people at the CEO Sleepout for St Vincent De Paul.
On June 20, I joined over 1,000 other CEOs across Australia in the CEO Sleepout for St Vincent De Paul.
I’ve participated in the event in the past and I continue to support it as it draws attention to the plight of the more than 100,000 homeless on our streets and raises funds that go directly to St Vincent De Paul’s programs.
The event never fails to bring home the plight of our homeless and does so in a very effective way through both the sleep-out itself as well as from hearing stories from the homeless themselves. Whilst it is an uncomfortable night’s sleep, we do have our modern sleeping bags and thermals and so is only a small taste of what life is actually like for the homeless. The real impact of the night for me though is always stories. Here are some examples from the events I’ve participated in:
- An ex-drug addict that had been on the streets since he was 15 and was only, at age 40, learning for the first time to budget for rent and food and look after himself;
- An otherwise quite everyday looking woman who had been the victim of domestic violence and found herself on the streets with her two kids and facing a 12 month wait for public housing. Home for this family of three was her car;
- An ex-senior executive who lost his job and became disenfranchised from his wife and four kids due to depression;
- A Lebanese family of eight who described their difficulty in getting housing for years, and their life bringing up kids while being shunted around from refuge to refuge.
Not all of these are the typical vision that people have of homelessness and it is forever a surprise to me that these situations exist in such a developed country as Australia and that such people can slip through the government support net. This is where organisations such as St Vincent De Paul and the programs they run are so critically important.
I grew up in fairly modest circumstances particularly after my father died when I was young. While we were never at risk of being homeless, I now know that we got through largely due to the strength of character of my Mother who is quite a remarkable woman. Things could easily have been quite different and I never forget how lucky we have been. A helping hand in times of need can make all the difference.
Over $5 million was raised from the 2013 event, money which will go to helping the homeless find the warmth, safety, and dignity they desperately deserve.
Donations are still being accepted at www.ceosleepout.org.au – St Vincent de Paul and the people they help would value your help.