“The most confronting part of doing the Vinnies CEO Sleepout is hearing the stories.”

Jane Lu

 

“Why don’t they just go to a homeless shelter?”

“They’re going to spend the money on booze and drugs?”

These are some of the most common comments I hear about homelessness, and from educated, decent people (they’re not nasty haha).

In this digital age, we know so much about so many issues, but homelessness in Australia is one that seems to baffle people through sheer ignorance.

We have over 116,000 homeless people in Australia, but unless you live in an urban area, you’re probably unlikely to see the issue first-hand.

There are SO many misconceptions about homelessness. You can never really understand what it’s like until you go through it yourself, and I certainly don’t assume that by sleeping out once a year gives me an inkling of what it’s actually like.

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In the morning, I get to go home to a hot shower and breakfast – homeless people do not have these luxuries. But if sleeping outside for one night per year can raise awareness and funds to support the issue, it’s no surprise that so many of us participate.

After participating in the Vinnies CEO Sleepouts, I’ve definitely become more conscious of the homeless and what the impact of sparing some change can do for them.

$5 is not going to get them off the street, but it will provide a hot meal on a cold winter’s day. It could help a woman buy sanitary products or some panadol, to ease a dreadful headache. I don’t think most of us realise what luxuries these small items can be! Things that we so easily just take for granted.

The sleepout itself can definitely be quite confronting, not the sleeping outside part but hearing the stories. There are the stories from those that have been homeless and stories from people who have worked with the homeless.

Showpo CEO Jane Lu. Image: Supplied.

Hearing about people who are just like you and me, through a series of misfortunes, that end up on the streets. Or those who are suffering from debilitating mental health issues, struggling to interact and thrive in our society.

I’m doing the Vinnies CEO Sleepout again because I really do think it’s a great cause. It’s a reminder of the seriousness of the homelessness problem in our country, and it allows me to use my position of influence to make a positive impact.

This issue needs to be vocalised and broadcasted so that people realise that it is still a very relevant issue in our society.

As an immigrant, I’m so grateful to be here and want to help others enjoy the opportunities Australia offers. Without charities like Vinnies raising awareness, we think the homeless issue is just limited to those few we may see on the street, but it’s so much greater than that.

Tonight, it could be an immigrant, just like me, who has lost his job and has no one to turn to for help. It could be a mother, escaping domestic violence with her children. They then get turned away from a homeless shelter and have to sleep on the streets in the middle of winter.

All because of a lack of national awareness and government funding.

I want to work with Vinnies so that a mother doesn't have to make the terrible choice between violence at home or homelessness. Right now there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness every night. 41 per cent of these people are women; many of them have children with them.

I think sometimes people shy away from helping because they don’t trust what that person is going to do with the money.

But even if they 'waste it', (as if you don’t 'waste it'), giving $5 to someone who doesn’t have any money is NEVER a 'waste'.

Small amounts are a small gesture and we will never understand just how much they mean.

For more information on the Vinnies CEO Sleepout you can visit their website. 

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