Mon. May 20th, 2024

Do you know what is it like to be homeless? Fortunately, many of us will never know. Unfortunately, too many of us will.

Armidale local, Andrew, has experienced the depths of homelessness and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

 “I was homeless, and I had a severe drug problem at the same time, and I didn’t realise how bad I was.” said Andrew.

“I ended up destroying myself and was homeless for a good 19 years and ended up in Royal North Shore Hospital before coming to Freeman House, and when I ended up in Freeman, I thought what am I going to do with my life and I ended up volunteering with Vinnies.”

“Vinnie’s saved me.”

Andrew became a volunteer with St Vincent de Paul for nine months before taking a paid position at the warehouse, and seven years later he has turned his life around and is looking for ways to give to back, which is why he is proud to join this year’s Vinnies Community Sleepout.

On Friday, August 25th, St Vincent de Paul is inviting everyone to the Community Sleepout.

Locals in Armidale and Tamworth will have the opportunity to brave the cold for one night to raise funds and gain a newfound insight into the realities of homelessness as part of this state-wide initiative.

“Vinnie’s has a proud history of running sleepouts, such as the CEO sleep out, and while that supports the society generally there was a need for community sleepouts, so here we are,” said Phil Donnan, Regional Director, St Vincent de Paul Society, North West Region.

“This is the chance for everyone from all walks of life, CEO right through to people who on assistance who want to experience how tough it is to be homeless or sleep rough.”

Can’t make it or don’t think you can do it? Vinnie’s have got your covered.

“If you can rough it for one night you can experience what it is like for some homeless every day of their life and raising money for a good cause, but if you can’t make it out you can join in at home by a virtual link.”

“Or if you cannot contribute cash or participate on the night volunteering is an incredible way to help people.”

Armidale’s sleepout will take place at Vinnie’s Armidale, 11 Bundarra Street, while Tamworth’s sleepout will be hosted by McCarthy Catholic College on Tribe Street.

Where will the raised funds go?

Organiser’s aim to raise $30,000 with all funds from the night to remain in the community and go directly to local programs.

In Armidale, it will go towards assisting Freeman House to support Vinnie’s Start Fresh Community Connections Program, which helps people re-engage with the community and rebuild their lives.

“Tamworth will raise money for its conference on Roderick Street and that is helping people at risk of homelessness and the homeless person, and we are also support our Rosalie House rehabilitation day program where we have people who are struggling and need to get back on their feet.” Said Phil.

Local people are strongly encouraged to try it once to get a greater understanding of the challenges faced by those disadvantaged.

“With the cost of living increasing and a lot of people feeling the pinch financially, there are a lot of people at risk of becoming homeless and we would like to help them out before it becomes an issue.” Said Phil.

The Facts

  • Last year, more than 310 people participated in the NSW Vinnies Community Sleepout, raising close to $275,000 in total.
  • At present, more than 122,000 people in Australia go to bed each night without a safe and secure place to live.
  • New South Wales accounts for the largest state nationally with over 35,000 people experiencing homelessness.
  • Over the last decade homelessness in NSW has increased by 27%.
  • The current waitlist for social housing in NSW is approximately 57,000 applicants.

The Sleepout

With the forecast already predicting a low of 2 degrees for Armidale and 1 degree for Tamworth, local support isn’t shying away and one person stepping up is Armidale Regional Council’s General Manager, James Roncon.

“I’ve taken part in the CEO Sleepout in the ACT, so I am no stranger to the Sleepout, and I thoroughly enjoy doing it,” said James.

“There is a part of me that loves to give back, that social equity or social justice principle, and I think I have worked hard over the years and I have a roof over my head every night but not everyone had that luxury so anything I can do, or a small sacrifice I can make, which in the grand scheme of things is no sacrifice.”

Spending one night sleeping out with cardboard under me is the least I can do to help raise some funds for Vinnies, who are the absolute leaders in terms of providing support to end homelessness and provide support people out there sleeping rough.”

This year will mark James’ second sleepout in Armidale and he is passing on some wise words ahead of the event.

“I’ve got a really good sleeping bag and last year I couldn’t believe how cold it was.” Said James.

“Bring more than less, and make sure you have a good sleeping bag and bring some blankets because it does get pretty cool in that shed this time of year.”

“And bring and open mind and an open spirit and really embrace it and enjoy it, that is the best thing you can do because you will get a lot out of it, just be prepared to be cold.”

It’s never too late to ask for help

Andrew is gearing up for his fifth sleepout in Armidale, and each year he opens up a little more into his story, hoping to inspire others to seek help.

“I was so glad when I got help from St Vincent De Paul because without help people can die and your mental health just goes to the worst place possible and its great to connect with other people who have experience not having a place to live and living rough.” Said Andrew.

“If you want to connect with people go to Vinnie’s, ask for help, they aren’t there to push you away.”

“And if they can’t help, they will point you in the right direction.”

To register or donate please visit www.vinnies.org.au/communitysleepout.

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