Sleeping on the street for one very cold evening was a very small contribution I made to a massive national issue. This has highlighted to myself and my fellow Sleep-out volunteers in so many ways that homelessness is not just for the Government to solve, it is everyone’s moral and ethical responsibility.
The organisation of the event at the Brisbane Powerhouse Park was exceptional, all the volunteers were typecast as real case studies by the incredible team of St Vincent de Paul. I was immediately transformed into the scenario as a person who has been homeless for two years. The set-up consisted of several role play departments including the Department of Housing, Drug and Alcohol Help centre and Mental Health. In character seeking help and refuge and was really confronting, the reality is that assistance and help is very limited, housing resources are even more restricted and for the unfortunate individuals getting out of the cycle of homelessness is an incredible challenge.
The common perception of homelessness is that it is a problem that afflicts only those with mental health and substance use problems. But this description doesn’t describe the experience of many, particularly those who first experienced homelessness late in life. Their lives could have derailed by job loss, illness, a new disability, the death of a loved one or an interaction with the criminal justice system. Often, it is a combination of these factors that led to homelessness and an almost insurmountable journey to escape.
The volunteers were provided a lovely and very welcome warm cup of soup and a bread roll by the Rosie’s Van. The work these volunteers do every day, faced with the stark reality of homelessness daily is truly extraordinary as they give nourishment and comfort to these suffering individuals.
The Young Entrepreneurs group that I was part of collectively raised over $20,000 and all the participants in QLD collectively raised over 1.5 million. A huge thank you to the 25 people who supported this cause and helped me to raise $1763. My personal view on homelessness in Australia has been changed forever, and this will now always be a cause that will be dear to my heart. There is something really dehumanizing about living on the streets in so many ways. It is a fact that in just a number of days from having housing, the physical transformation is almost immediate and the homeless is unrecognisable from their former selves, further contributing to how they are often perceived.
I end with a quote by Sheila McKechnie, the founder of the UK based foundation which does such amazing work to empower people: “People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes. “‘