I Am Sleeping Out Tonight
It was a mere one-degree above freezing overnight, that fog will be chilling the concrete concourse at GMHBA Stadium and that's where I will be sleeping tonight, in a sleeping bag on a bit of cardboard, as part of the Geelong CEO Sleepout to support#PovertyHomeTruths.
I'm not a CEO, and a number of people who have signed up to sleep out aren't either. We are all just people who think we might be able to do this one small good thing to help out people in our community who are struggling.
We all know there are people doing it tough.
If you can, please help by donating to www.ceosleepout.org.au
I watched a friend recently, a single mum of three beautiful primary-aged kids, struggle to find a home she could afford for her family after a separation. Her parents didn't want to or couldn't help. She was in and out of hospital with adult-onset Type 1 diabetes and hasn't been able to work. Some days she could barely get out of bed.
A few months later, while our kids were jumping with excitement with get on the bus for a school trip to Canberra, her son was one of only a few who stayed behind. We didn't know things were that tough and the ache to help was gut wrenching.
I've watched another single woman, older this time, and once the joint owner of a small business, a dedicated mum - one of those that jumped in to do canteen duty, umpire at sport and just turn up - skate on the edge. Severe mental illness changed her life in huge and small ways. The confident, outgoing person was scared and unsure, struggling to find balance in what was now a confusing world of medications, hospital admissions that went from weeks to months, being home but still unwell, and having to navigate a new kind of normal.
And she's one of the lucky ones, a small inheritance gave her enough to buy a modest home. A diet of rice bubbles, a banana and protein powder smoothie, sardines and vitamins keeps her relatively healthy and a small group of friends remain to brighten the few hours a day she isn't in bed, trying to cope with the chronic pain that was a legacy of one those antipsychotics.
She lives on the edge, but not over it. Unlike so many of the men and women she shared a hospital ward with; men and women with little or no family connection, whose past sadness, trauma and damage led them to addiction, social isolation, poorly managed mental illness and life coach surfing or on the streets. People who had few choices, and not a lot of hope.
When people find themselves over the poverty edge, that's when organisations like St Vincent's de Paul step in, when we need them.
Proceeds from the 2018 Vinnies CEO Sleepout will be used to support Vinnies’ local home visitation service. Calls for the service have risen by, on average, 68 per cent in the greater Geelong district over the past three years – the highest rise in any part of the state.
“Home visitation is one of the primary ways our volunteers alleviate poverty and ensure people are empowered to keep a roof over their heads. We help with the basics when people have nowhere else to turn, providing food, utilities, education resources, medical needs and more,” said Ms Cattermole.
“Visits happen confidentially, face to face, in peoples’ homes or community assistance centres. In a world that moves so fast and at times, feels self-centred, it is heartening to stop and appreciate the work of Vinnies volunteers who invest their time giving back, by responding to calls for help in regional centres and country towns.”
Vinnies Victoria CEO, Sue Cattermole, said the event is an invaluable meeting of minds and inspires influential leaders to unpack complex social and economic issues which they can personally influence in their leadership positions.
“We know that over 725,000 Victorians are living below the poverty line and according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data, homelessness has risen by over 11 per cent across the state in the past five years,” said Ms Cattermole.
“If we don’t pool our energy now to address the unique causes of poverty in regional Victoria and proactively alleviate crisis, more and more people will end up experiencing homelessness – which is an absolute tragedy.”
So, enjoy your warm beds tonight - imagine how much you'd miss it if you didn't have one. And, if you can, please donate - you can find me on the search, or donate to any of the other 60 people who will curl up on the concrete for this one night in the hope that Vinnie's can help other people without a secure bed, who don't know how they are going to buy food or pay the wint