In what is sure to be a good sign, the sun was peeking through the clouds as the annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout was launched on 13 April.
CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn Lucy Hohnen said the organisation hopes to raise $800,000 from Canberra’s 14th Sleepout on 22 June.
“Today marks the start of the most important fundraising campaign of the year for us,” she said.
“This year’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout is important not just to raise critical funds to support the ongoing work that we do in the community, but also for the incredible impact you will have on the lives of so many people who come to us for help when they find themselves in tough times.”
On the longest night of the year, CEOs and their team members will gather at the National Museum of Australia to experience what sleeping rough is really like.
There will also be virtual events running alongside the main event, including in regional areas to support those outside the city.
Ms Hohnen said recent pressures – such as a lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of living and successive interest rate hikes – have led to an increase in the number of those seeking help from across the Canberra and Goulburn region.
“Each day and night, our dedicated teams of volunteers and specialist services assist someone out of that dire circumstance,” Ms Hohnen said.
“Or better still, [they] help prevent someone tipping into homelessness by providing emergency assistance, be it food, financial support for accommodation, medical and household bills, car registration or fuel.”
Thursday’s launch also shone a spotlight on the hard work put in by participants in previous years.
Canberra-based Synergy Group received an award for being the top fundraising team in the Canberra/Goulburn area in 2022, raising $43,200 in total thanks to the support of a network of friends, families, employees and clients.
CEO of Synergy Group Antonia Marzulli said participating in the Sleepout is a chance to make a clear difference in the community.
“One of the ways that we extend our reach outside of just our clients and customers is actually to do things that make a difference in people’s lives that we live with and that we work with and that we see every day within this area.”
“We really want to actually put our money where our mouths are in regards to impacting the community in a positive way.”
In 2023 they are hoping to meet and exceed last year’s total and were also looking at inviting representatives from fellow Canberra businesses to join their team on the night.
The top three individual fundraisers were GEOCON Group’s Nick Georgalis ($28,800), Canberra Toyota’s Mirko Milic ($42,130) and NSW Scouts’ Neville Tomkins ($47,800).
Additionally, Katrina Bracher, Keith Cantlie and Ted Kell were recognised for their participation in more than a decade’s worth of CEO Sleepouts.
Ms Hohnen said this year’s Sleepout launch comes at a time when many in the community are struggling.
“Sadly, the need for our services is increasing week by week and demand is unprecedented.”
“Every day, people continue to find themselves in such a desperate situation that they need to live in their car, a tent or on someone’s couch due to something that has happened in their lives – often at no fault of their own.”
In the first three months of 2023, Vinnies had already provided nearly $500,000 worth of food and other emergency assistance to Canberrans in need.
Meanwhile, Vinnies volunteers had also supported more than 6,500 people from the Canberra-Goulburn region in the past six months.
Through the money raised in the 2022 Sleepout, Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn was able to increase its caseworker capacity and added two new trucks to its Night Patrol team.
Information on how to register for or donate to the Vinnies CEO Sleepout in 2023 can be found on the CEO Sleepout website.