GEELONG business leaders are preparing to brave a night of sleeping rough to support Vinnies in its fight to end homelessness.
Australia’s highest profile corporate fundraiser, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, will take place on the longest night of the year which falls on June 17.
So far more than 130 Victorians have signed up including the 2021 Geelong CEO Sleepout ambassadors Joanne Plummer, Rose Pirrottina and Lisa Sweeney.
Joanne, who is chair of Barwon Water among other roles, is taking part in her fourth sleepout and has already raised more than $1000 toward this year’s effort.
“Twenty years ago it was unusual to see someone sleeping rough or being homeless,” she says of what motivated her to get involved.
“Now I see it almost every day on my travels and it bothers me that we as a society have become so desensitised to walking past someone in need.
“I too am guilty of this and hope by participating in the CEO Sleepout that I can not only raise some funds, but also raise awareness of why this happens and how we can all help.”
Joanne says even one night without a cosy bed can bring into focus the harsh reality of homelessness.
“Last year when COVID hit and we were given the option to sleep in our cars, on the couch or in our backyard, I chose to sleep in my car,” she recalls.
“I did this thinking it was a good middle ground in showing support for the cause while being a little kind to myself.
“I can tell you I was cold, uncomfortable and in need of a loo in the depths of the early morning.
“For the many thousands of people, particularly women and children, who sleep in cars every night, you have my deepest empathy.”
This year Joanne will join other Geelong participants who will congregate at a safe place to watch a livestream of the Melbourne event and then sleep in their car.
“We want Geelong people to feel confident that they are supporting Geelong people to participate and raise much-needed awareness in our region,” she says.
Joanne encourages anyone thinking of taking part to “do it!”.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what contributes to people becoming homeless … it’s often not what you think,” she says.
“You will sleep easier knowing you have lent a hand rather than just walked past and pretended it’s not happening.”
The options to take part include an in-person event at Docklands or in Geelong (venue yet to be announced) or by being a virtual attendee. You can also make a donation.
Last year, 223 participants helped to raised $1.06 million to fund a soup van service, home visitation programs, education programs and other special efforts.
This year’s event aims to raise $1.5 million to support Vinnies’ volunteer-run community services.
The Vinnies CEO Sleepout takes place on Thursday, June 17. To register go to ceosleepout.org.au/about-ceo-sleepout.