Canberra business, community and government leaders braced themselves against the cold and spent a night sleeping rough to support Vinnies in their fight against homelessness, and raised almost a million dollars in the process.
Held at the famously chilly and windy National Arboretum on the night of Thursday, 17 June, it was a difficult location for a night of rough sleeping. Participants were provided with only a sleeping bag, cardboard box, and a bread roll and soup for sustenance.
Despite these challenges, morale was high among the 130 participants, and many chose to stay awake and continue to fundraise long into the night.
This year marked a huge milestone in the Sleepout’s history with total funds raised sitting at $971,641.
Geocon Group managing director Nick Georgalis was this year’s top fundraiser, raising a staggering $65,126.
Nick said he was thankful to those who had supported his efforts but said he was simply a representative for a good cause.
“We deliver a lot of work in Canberra and support businesses, so it was a great example of this being reciprocated to flow on to Vinnies,” he said.
Despite the cold, Nick said it was impressive to see so many Canberra CEOs and leaders sleeping rough.
“It does give us a bit of an understanding and insight into how people who don’t have the privileges I do live.
“Getting up this morning and being able to have a hot shower made me feel very fortunate,” he said.
Also sleeping out in the cold this year was Canberra Toyota dealer principal Mirko Milic who said that “from a fundraising point of view, we really smashed it out of the ballpark and we are hopeful of a result of $1 million”.
This year marked a major personal milestone for him as it was his 10th year sleeping rough for the sleep-out, and he raised a personal record amount of $40,000.
“For me, it’s the annual reminder that I need to put it all back into perspective as it’s easy to forget how hard it is to sleep on concrete and how cold it can get,” Mirko explained.
He also acknowledged that all participants had the luxuries of a sleeping bag and shelter they needed to sleep rough, while for many of the city’s homeless, this is simply not the case.
The temperature dipped overnight to a somewhat frosty five degrees, and Mirko says while he felt the cold, it wasn’t as bad as previous years where the figures have been in the minus and rain has been coming in sideways.
“I don’t know how many times last night we were reminded that we were sleeping out in the coldest place in Canberra, but while the wind was nippy, it wasn’t too bad,” he said.
Like Nick, although tired on Friday morning after three or so hours of broken sleep, Mirko said he was ready to push on through the day and was very much grateful for his hot shower.
St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn CEO Barnie van Wyk completed his fifth sleep-out this year and said it gave only a small glimpse into the sobering daily reality for the homeless.
“With a shortage of 3000 affordable homes in the ACT, it is more important than ever for us to continue to advocate for the thousands of Canberrans who have no choice but to go through this every night,” he said.
The funds raised by participants will be directed towards a range of Vinnies’ programs, including case management services, expanded Night Patrol operations, and establishing a Regional Support Hub to assist communities impacted by emergencies such as bushfires.
If you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, OneLink provides information and connections for support services in the ACT, including services for families and young people. OneLink is a service provided by Woden Community Service with assistance from the ACT Government.