So I'm back. I survived! But it was a cold night. Here's how things went down.
We collected our beanies and cardboard
6:30pm. Arrived at the Convention Centre. We registered, got our photo's taken, collected our beanies and cardboard and went outside to secure the least windy spot we could find. I was pleased to be doing it with the Moores Managing Principal as it would have been a bit daunting on my own. There were 233 CEOs from a range of other organisations (and it was great to see a number of females representing!).
We had a cup of soup and a bread roll for dinner (back inside the main hall) and then we walked around the booths where people from St V or Vincent Care were talking to the CEOs about what they did for a day job.
I met this really great guy who has started his own Not-for-Profit that collects blankets to hand out to the 300 people that eat from the St V soup van every night. His name is Warren and he has a full-time job at Myer's but at night he works relentlessly with the homeless. You can check them out here. I think I'll do a blanket drive for him soon. It's not enough but it's something.
Oh and we got interviewed by SkyNews. I hunted down the lovely reporter and asked her if we could be interviewed. Seeing as David has been doing the soup van for 8 years and that Moores represents a lot of organisations in the housing sector I felt we had a story to share. Not sure if we made it on tv but it was fun nonetheless!
The main event
We then went into the main lecture theatre and were told that Victoria had raised over $900,000 as part of this drive and across the whole country the tally is sitting at over $5 million! The figures are pretty astounding but in typical Aussie fashion the crowd gave each other a modest clap of applause.
We were then privileged to hear from three people that had been homeless. The fellow that really resonated with me was named Bill. He had some serious mental health issues but after a period of homelessness he was lucky enough (in his words) to find some outreach workers that pulled him out of an institution and he is now living in private accommodation and is financially independent. He said to us that whenever you ask someone how they got out of homelessness they'll tell you they're lucky. And in Bill's words - that's not good enough. We can't just wait and hope for people to get luck.
The power of employment
Bill told us about his first day of employment after many years of being unemployed. He said he had to walk down Church Street in Richmond and it was about 6am and he looked around and realised that he was just like everyone else walking to work that day. He remembers feeling the happiest he had felt in a long time. That sense of belonging. The relief that he wouldn't have to lie anymore when people asked what he did. That really stuck with me.
The other thing that really stuck with me from the talks was the sad youth unemployment stats. The Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 105,237 people in Australia are experiencing homelessness, with 60% of those under the age of 35. Perhaps surprising to many people is that 44% of these are women (most escaping domestic violence) and 13% are under the age of 12.
David and I are going to work out a way that we, at Moores, can help the young people in our community that have experienced homelessness to get some work experience. I grilled a St V worker and she's already sent me some organisations in our area to contact so that we can work out how we can help.
The youth are our future. We owe it to them.
So then at about 10:30pm the lights went off. David and I walked around for a bit and then headed off to our cardboard boxes outside. I rugged up - this is what I had on: stockings, leggings, ugg boots, thermal top, long-sleeved jumper, down-jacket, scarf, beanie, neck warmer (over my face). And I was still cold. I had to get up at 2:30am to pee and warm up. I then slept a little more until 5:30am when the lights came on.
As per my last post, I totally appreciate that this night wasn't even reflective of how hard people sleep when they're on the streets. But it sure made me realise how cold, hungry and insecure you must feel when you are really homeless.
So some great learnings for me - I'm going to do a blanket drive for 300 Blankets, help out some local young people and we've collectively raised over $17,000 to go towards eradicating homelessness.
Perhaps together we really can find a way. In the interim, please donate to support the amazing work St V do - click here.