Last night thousands of CEOs lent our voices, networks and resources to help advocate and raise funds for Vinnies Homeless Services. We collectively raised almost 5 million Australia wide.
I think I managed 4 hours sleep. Somewhere between 11 pm and 2 am, as I lay on the ground of Melbourne University’s carpark, I discovered my strategically arranged layers of wool and polyester weren’t buffer enough against the cold that seeped up through the hard concrete.
But what’s a night’s discomfort for a good cause? My stomach was full thanks to the amazing volunteers—the “Vannies”, who feed Australia’s most vulnerable night after night. I was cocooned in a sleeping bag. I was undercover in a secure space with 200 CEOs beside me. And I was sustained by the promise of a hot shower in the morning, of job security, healthcare, a warm home and the support of friends and family.
Homelessness is so much more than being roofless. It’s entirely isolating. Loneliness and isolation is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and has also been linked to multiple health problems from high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease to obesity.
Homelessness can so easily happen to anyone. The news has been telling us lately that more older people than ever are facing homelessness, in part due to the housing affordability crisis. And studies estimate that from 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 homeless people have significant hearing difficulties. My heart goes out to these people. I can’t begin to imagine how much more the impact of isolation would be compounded for them.
Some of the speakers at the Sleepout could identify with the ways homeless people can feel. They shared how their lives had at one point been altered by the assistance of organisations like Vinnies.
By supporting Vinnies, we are empowering over 60,000 volunteers across Australia who spend time with people face to face to help them navigate complex and often unsettling social issues. For example, the “Vannies” do so much more than serve soup. They act as a conduit, assessing the needs of the people they sustain and ushering them through to the services they need. They’re all so amazing.