For Newcastle’s Adam Boyle, it is hard to imagine how a homeless person makes it through the night.
However, tomorrow he will put himself in their shoes and sleep in his backyard in a bid to raise money and awareness for the thousands of people who have nowhere to call home.
He will join chief executives from across the country in St Vincent de Paul Society’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout.
“It’s uncomfortable,” he says.
“I think the first couple of times [I did it] it was bit of a novelty, but you do it once every year and it’s hard to imagine how people could do it every night and we are around hundreds of other people so there is a sense of safety, but that doesn’t happen for the homeless.”
As Chief Executive of Pegasus – a Newcastle-based technology company that offers world-class workforce management software to companies including clients Woolworths and BHP – it is Adam’s 10th sleepout.
He says participating in the event has changed the way he perceives homeless people.
“I actually got nominated by one of my staff 10 years ago and, at the time, there wasn’t one in Newcastle so my first sleepout was at Luna Park in Sydney and it was one of those things that you want to stay involved in,” he says.
“They definitely make the experience worthwhile; they bring in people to tell their stories, people who have been homeless or have helped the homeless.
“It’s very humbling, you get a sense of what these people go through on a daily basis.”
He adds that people often misinterpret why people are homeless, stating that it is not always in relation to drugs or abuse but “systemic stuff”, like the cost of housing.
This year, Adam set the goal to raise $5,000. However, after smashing that total by more than $2,000, he has his sights set on raising as much as possible for the charity.
Participants in Newcastle will raise money for the Matthew Talbot Homeless Service, a local organisation that provides support to homeless men and their children across the city and in Lake Macquarie.
Manager Karen Soper says the pandemic has pushed a lot of people into homelessness, with the organisation recording an increase in the amount of people being referred to their service.
“Getting them off the street and into emergency accommodation has been a priority,” she says.
“We don’t leave people sleeping in the street – one night is too many.”
However, according to Karen, the pandemic has provided homeless people with a silver lining.
“It’s really forced services to promote and support homelessness [and] the extra support is a really good outcome,” she says.
She adds that the funds raised at the sleepout allows the team to continue its vital work.
“All funds [raised] go to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” she says.
Vinnies CEO Sleepout Newcastle Event Coordinator, Jenny Barrie, says the organisation is very excited for this year’s edition.
She adds that, while the event is going to look different because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be a virtual live stream that will connect sleepers with the community.
“It’s our eighth sleepout in Newcastle and CEOs elect to sleep in their cars, backyards or couch surf because of restrictions,” she says.
“It’s the very first time there is a virtual life stream. It’s a national event now – in NSW, we’ve already met our target, and, nationally, it is at more than $3.5 million.”