Managing director of Canberra Airport Stephen Byron said as Canberra’s population grows, so too will social problems: “that’s why our target and our efforts need to grow”. Photo supplied.

The Vinnies CEO Sleepout returns to Canberra this winter, with a local fundraising goal of $700,000. The annual event sees CEOs and leaders across the country ‘sleep out’ for a night in June to raise funds and awareness for Vinnies homelessness services.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the event in Canberra, and CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn Barnie van Wyk said the cause is more important than ever.

“We’ve not been able to address the systemic issues of homelessness,” Mr van Wyk said at the launch of this year’s event on Thursday 4 April.

“In 2016, the census found that there were 1,596 people here experiencing homelessness on a daily basis in the ACT.

“For me, this hits home when you start to talk about 348 young people between the ages of 12 and 24 … is that a ‘fair go’? I don’t think so.”

Mr van Wyk said “anyone” could experience homelessness, and no one could “truly, hand-on-heart” say “that will never happen to me”.

“I have heard and experienced and seen too many situations and issues where people have fallen onto hard times, where they would think that wasn’t possible to happen.”

This year, participating CEOs will spend the night of Thursday 20 June in Hangar 47 at Canberra Airport.

“We’re going to learn what it’s like to sleep, and have your sleep disturbed, because we are a 24-hour operating airport,” Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said.

“We will learn what it’s like to sleep on concrete, hard concrete. And I can promise you, that thirdly, we will learn what it’s like to be cold, very cold.”

While both Mr van Wyk and Mr Byron acknowledged that the event in many ways does not simulate a “real ‘night out’”, the focus is on reflecting and gaining an insight into the experience of those experiencing homelessness.

“This is a key initative for us,” Mr van Wyk said. “It’s about raising funds, there’s no doubt about that, and we really would look at raising some significant funds this year, being our 10th anniversary.

“We want to have in excess of 200 participants this year … to raise funds, but also raise awareness.”

The CEO Sleepout will be held on Thursday 20 June at Hangar 47 at Canberra Airport. To donate or to nominate, visit ceosleepout.org.au/event/canberra

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