"It was definitely an eye-opener, for everything I take for granted each day, like food, water, shelter, hot showers, and private amenities"
As first time CEO Sleepout attendee Helen Yost braved the cool winds under the Story Bridge in Brisbane for the annual event in June 2017, she was reminded of her past and her own experiences of homelessness. Helen first experienced homelessness when she was 8.
"As a child, we lived in a caravan park for about 18 months and we moved quite a lot because my parents didn't have the financial stability to rent a property on a long-term basis. So we moved around and there were a few nights when we slept in the family car because we didn't have anywhere to live."
Helen joined 170 local business, community and government leaders sleeping out under the Story Bridge for the Vinnies CEO Sleepout with just a sleeping bag, two pieces of cardboard, two layers of clothing, a beanie and fur-lined ugg boots. "It was freezing and I didn't get more than 2 hours sleep all night," she said.
"It's heartbreaking to know there are over 116,000 Australians experiencing homelessness each and every night, with many more at risk. Many are sleeping on the street with less than I had."
At the event, Vinnies CEO Peter Maher announced the purchase of over $6 million worth of housing around Queensland. The housing is located in Cairns, Mackay, Toowoomba and Brisbane. The properties are being used to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for individuals and families who would otherwise have no place to call home.
Vinnies Queensland has been involved in housing for over 40 years, and has recently established the Vinnies Housing Company to manage the properties. Since 2008 when the Society owned just 42 properties, Vinnies has made it a priority to invest in housing for people facing homelessness or at risk. The Society now owns more than 450 properties across Queensland that people experiencing disadvantage call home. Vinnies Queensland provides support for people to help them transition to independent tenancies in the private or public housing market, providing them with a hand up, not just a hand out.
The Brisbane and Gold Coast 2017 events have raised more than $1 million which will go towards housing and other support for people facing homelessness.