This year’s St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Sleepout will have an additional location at the Dirty Jane’s Canberra carpark on Collie Street, Fyshwick, where the industrial hub’s CEOs and business leaders will trade their working gear for sleeping bags.
The CEO Sleepout, which will be held on the long night of Thursday 17 June, will shine a spotlight on the issues of homelessness, food insecurity, housing affordability, and lack of suitable housing in the ACT region.
CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn, Barnie van Wyk said the sleepout raises awareness of homelessness in the capital.
“Why we’re doing this is, is important to acknowledge the fact that it is just one night that we sleep out, but what is important for us to understand is that the people are doing this every night,” Mr van Wyk said.
Despite Canberra’s reputation as an affluent city, census data shows more than 1,500 ACT residents experience a stretch of homelessness, with almost one quarter of those aged 14 to 24.
Mr van Wyk said he believes the numbers may rise due to the bushfires, pandemic, and the uncertainty Australians have faced with living costs and increased housing prices.
“In terms of people sleeping rough and coming through Canberra, the early signs are there that we might have an increasing number of people sleeping rough,” he said.
While many of Canberra’s CEOs and community leaders this year will be sleeping out at either the National Arboretum or the Dirty Jane’s carpark, Vinnies is also encouraging participants to sleep in their car, on their couch, or in their backyard.
Fyshwick Business Association president Rob Evans, who was involved in bringing this year’s CEO Sleepout to Fyshwick, said he is aware of several people sleeping rough in the industrial suburb and would like to raise $50,000 for the worthy cause.
“It’s a real challenge that is right on our doorstep. We are quickly coming up to the coldest time of the year,” Mr Evans said.
“When we first mooted the idea of a CEO Sleepout in Fyshwick, a few our members just leapt at it and said ‘how can we help?’.”
With a mean daily minimum temperature of 1.3 degrees recorded in June 2020, Fyshwick business leaders spending the night in the carpark of Dirty Jane’s (behind Domayne Fyshwick) will get a reality check about the conditions faced by people sleeping rough.
“Homelessness is not always visible. It is almost like we hide poverty well in Canberra,” Mr van Wyk said.
“People don’t understand poverty, they think ‘if it’s not in my backyard it’s not a problem’. It is only when you have that personal experience that you can relate.”
For more information on the CEO sleepout, visit www.ceosleepout.org.au.
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