On Thursday 24 June 105 Canberra CEOs raised over $378,000 for the 2016 Vinnies CEO Sleepout. Participants battled to keep dry and warm at Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre. But despite the cold, wet and windy conditions, morale was high with many CEOs choosing to stay awake and use the challenging weather conditions as grounds for seeking much needed funds from sponsors through social media outlets.
The formal proceedings on the night included 2015 Vinnies Clemente Program Graduate Carol Boucher who shared that “the Vinnies Clemente Program has given me back my dignity and self-worth.” Ms Boucher is a domestic violence and homelessness survivor who thanks Vinnies for providing her access to tertiary education through the Vinnies Clemente Program and is now pursuing a double degree in secondary education, mathematics and computer studies
John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council also addressed the attending CEOs, “housing should be a human right for all, rather than just a matter of luck for some.”
“There should be a place in our society for compassion.. there shouldn’t be a place for homelessness.”
The event was attended by His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia; The Hon Brendan Nelson AO, Director of Australian War Memorial and Jeremy Hanson MLA, ACT Leader of the Opposition.
At 5am, weary participants were woken by the gentle sound of Whirly Tubes played by Questacon’s Excited Particles. Reflecting on their overnight experience, most participants feel that their perceptions of homelessness have been greatly challenged.
Questacon Director, Professor Graham Durant AM, host of this year’s event, reflects: “ It is vitally important that we do what we can to support Vinnies in their important work. It is sad that it is necessary in a prosperous city like Canberra, but people do get caught out for a variety of reasons. It is important that someone cares.”
The St Vincent de Paul Society strongly advocates for long term solutions to homelessness including the provision of more affordable housing and effective actions to address root causes of homelessness such as family and domestic violence.
CEO Paul Trezise explains: “Vinnies has worked tirelessly in Canberra for many years to help break the cycle of homelessness. The Society provides support for people at risk of homelessness through its conference volunteers. Vinnies employees support rough sleepers and help families who have experienced homelessness re-establish their roots in our community. Funds raised from the CEO Sleepout are essential for the continuation of our services.”
“The Vinnies CEO Sleepout has now been held in Canberra for seven years. Our observation is that engagement in this event inspires many participants to continue their support and advocacy on homelessness issues long after they have rolled up their sleeping bags. This ongoing commitment of CEOs and their organisations has a lasting impact on Vinnies’ capacity to assist people in our community who need it most.”
With donations being received up to 31 August 2016, the St Vincent de Paul Society aims to reach this year’s target of $450,000 – the money that is needed to continue to provide a wide range of programs to assist homeless people and stop others to slide into homelessness.