As we approach the shortest day of the year, the CEO Sleepout focuses our attention on the plight of the homeless. This Thursday night, for the 6th year running, I will be joining other business people to spend a night under the stars to gain a brief glimpse of what it means to be homeless. It is a very sanitised version of what it really means to be without shelter night after night.
You will have heard the figures. Each night there are 15,000 men, women and children in the Illawarra and more than 100,000 across Australia without a permanent home. These figures are staggering and the scale can obscure the individual heartbreaking stories. The doorway to our Wollongong office has been ‘home’ to Alex for several weeks. Conversations with him have revealed that a broken relationship and a self-confessed mental health condition has left him in a situation that he does not want to be permanent. I am learning to balance the desire to help with respect for the transition Alex is making with his own resources. He’s an artist scraping together materials to sell his work and hopefully break the spiralling cycle sleeping on the street.
I have a regular stint on the Vinnies’ van and see firsthand those in need and the comfortable relationship with the ‘regulars’ can lead to complacency. Recently, I was jolted back to reality by three young children turning up for a sandwich with their mother at an anonymous distance. The proud 11-year-old representing his younger siblings was matter-of-fact. His home was City Beach.
The CEO Sleepout is only part of the solution however it makes a significant contribution to meeting the local need. If you are able to support this worthy cause, please make a donation.