13 May 2024

One night sleeping rough helps those who do it every night

| Jacqueline Lyons
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People gather together at chilly event

Over 120 community, business and political leaders across the region are gearing up for a chilly night at Parliament House for a good cause. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

It’s that time of year again when business and community leaders across the country are invited to spend a night sleeping rough to change the lives of people who do it every night.

The annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout is just around the corner, asking people to experience what it is like to sleep rough on a cold winter’s night to raise money for those doing it tough in the community.

In 2023, the Sleepout raised more than $800,000, which went directly to providing beds for people experiencing homelessness, food items delivered through support centres, emergency assistance and home visits, and ongoing individual support programs.

READ ALSO How are prices decided at Vinnies stores?

Catholic Education Canberra Goulburn is just one of dozens of companies and organisations taking part in the fundraiser this year.

General manager for early learning for the organisation Leah Taylor has taken part in the fundraiser for five years.

“With everything going on with the domestic violence cases that seem to be coming up every second day, there are women and children that are possibly couch surfing, staying in cheap motels or in their cars. Thinking about them makes me want to keep raising more money and awareness every year,” Leah says.

People gather together holding a sign

The Sleepout has raised over $8 million to help people living in poverty across Australia since it started in 2006. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Leah says that while she and her husband spend much of their time hiking and walking around the country, camping is not her forte.

“It’s an ongoing joke that I refuse to camp unless I’m raising money for charity,” Leah says.

“I’m lucky enough to still be in good enough health that I can still participate in the night. It’s cold and not particularly comfortable, but it’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make for such a worthy cause.

“I think it really puts things into perspective, having one night sleeping on a cardboard mattress in the cold once a year makes you really appreciate what you have at home.”

Leah says while it will be a cold night, it will be worthwhile.

READ ALSO ‘No one can help all, but all can help one’ – Vinnies CEO Sleepout 2024 kicks off

“Every year, there are speeches by plenty of different people talking about what it means to ‘sleep rough’, and I swear, there is never a dry eye in the house,” Leah says.

“It’s the speeches that help remind us why we do what we do.”

Despite the name of the event, participants don’t have to have the CEO title to take part. All leaders, from school principals to general managers to business owners or heads of departments, are encouraged to help Vinnies fund its frontline homelessness services and join them for the night.

“We really want to get as many people involved as possible. One of the best things about taking part in it every year is going through it with your colleagues,” Leah says.

People show up to the Vinnies CEO sleepout in 2023

After 15 years of Sleepouts at different venues across the ACT, Vinnies CEO Sleepout will occur for the first time at Parliament House in 2024. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Over the past 15 years, the Canberra CEO Sleepout has been held at various locations, including the National Museum of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Arboretum. This year, the night will be held at Parliament House for the first time.

The Sleepout will also occur at various locations across the region, including Merimbula’s basketball courts and Young’s railway station, both part of the Canberra/Goulburn Vinnies region.

Vinnies Canberra/ Goulburn is hoping to raise $800,000 this year. To register, visit CEO Sleepout.

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