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Since 2006, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout has been one of the largest fundraising events on the Australian calendar.

Raising close to $60 million to support Vinnies’ homeless services and programs, the event has provided business and community leaders with a glimpse into the harsh conditions faced by the 116,000 people in Australia without a safe and secure place to sleep.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout we have adapted the event with a focus on other forms of homelessness that often go unseen. On Thursday 18 June business and community leaders will nominate to sleep out in their cars, couches or backyards as part of a nationwide live-stream to raise awareness and funds for homelessness.

So far more than $1.5 million has been raised with participants finding new and inventive ways to highlight the challenges faced by the most vulnerable in our communities and how the funds raised can change lives for the better.

For Corinne Lindsell and Tim Iffland, 2020 will be the fourth time the duo have taken part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.

Working as managers at Vinnies and Channel 9 respectively, the pair have taken the novel approach of starting the Sleepcasters podcast to share their experiences of past sleep outs and bringing awareness to some of the services that benefit from the funds raised.

We spoke with Corinne about her experience with the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, how it informs the work she does at Vinnies and what can be done to support people who fall on hard times.

What prompted you to start the Sleepcasters podcast?

Tim and I have known each other since we were teenagers and this is the fourth year we’ve done the Vinnies CEO Sleepout. We realised it’s a different dynamic this year with everything being online, so I had the idea to do a podcast about how the money raised supports the services run by Vinnies.

It was another platform of raising awareness and keeping the event in the forefront of people’s mind – homelessness is not going away.

What has your experience of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout been in previous years?

It’s always a struggle! In the past I’ve done the sleep out in Wollongong and that’s really cold because you’re right on the water in the middle of winter. It’s an immersive experience – at times it feels as though the waves from the ocean are going to crash on top of you.

There’s sense of community with all these local businesses gathering together for the one cause. You’re hearing and feeling the elements so you can’t separate the struggle from the message.

You work at Vinnies as the Community Inclusion Manager for the South Region, how has the Vinnies CEO Sleepout experience informed your work?

I’ve been involved with services that directly help people who have been homeless. When I did my first sleep out it changed my thinking of how to engage with the people we assist.

I wanted to understand someone’s story as well as help them with the services that are available - “Where do you go at night? Where do you get shelter? What happens when it rains?” – it’s important to let them tell their story and have a voice.

During COVID we’re getting messages of “stay home, work from home, only go out if it’s essential”. I know that there are pockets in the community where people are homeless and sleeping rough – where do they go?

The homeless are still homeless and there’s all this new need. Vinnies is one of the places people are coming to for that support to keep them afloat.

During the podcast you mention that a lot of people are only one or two pay cheques away from poverty. What needs to change so that people are supported when they fall on hard times?

There’s a lot of advocacy about retaining the rate of JobSeeker at the moment.

We don’t yet know the far reaching economic and social impacts of this pandemic. There are massive amounts of people on JobSeeper and JobKeeker who have lost their jobs or don’t know what the future holds.

After the COVID-19 stimulus packages are wound back and people are still out of work, they’ll go back to a level of support that’s just not enough. It’s always not been enough. It’s not enough to get in or stay in the private rental market on Centrelink.

What keeps you coming back for the Vinnies CEO Sleepout year after year?

It’s the human element of listening to someone’s story. People who are really struggling haven’t just got there overnight - it’s been a journey to get there.

When you hear their stories you get to know that someone was there to help them. It’s the human journey that set them up to get back on their feet.

There is a perception that homelessness is only about rough sleeping. We don’t think enough about those who don’t have a fixed address. Someone might have a place to sleep, but it’s not stable, it’s not fixed, it’s not theirs. It’s not a place that they call home. That’s what makes this year’s event all the more important given the circumstances.

Right now there’s a new need that has emerged of people who have been financially affected by COVID. They’ve found themselves in a situation asking for help that they never thought they would. They were in stable work and now all of a sudden it’s not there.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a whole society to support those who are really disadvantaged. It’s everyone’s responsibility from government, communities, private business, rental markets – everything.


Listen to the Sleepcasters podcast

Donate to Corinne and Tim’s Sleepcasters Fundraiser for Vinnies CEO Sleepout