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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Sleeping rough to shine a light on homelessness

Imagine having nowhere to live, nowhere to sleep, or nowhere to call home.

That’s a reality for far too many people across the Hunter Region but, at the end of this month, participants in the Vinnies Community Sleepout will have a glimpse of what it is like to sleep rough.

Typically, the national charity hosts an event at Maitland Gaol, but COVID-19 has forced organisers to host the event online.

However, Regional Director Clare Van Doorn is hopeful the virtual event will lead to more participants.

She adds it will likely give people a different experience of what homelessness can be like.

“People are participating by either sleeping in their backyard, in the car or on the couch,” Ms Van Doorn says.

“We hope to get more participants because they can do it from their own space as well, but also, they’ll get a sense of what it may be like to be in a homeless or near homeless situation.

“It is so important for awareness because, quite often, people aren’t aware of what the situation is with homelessness. They may think of it in big cities but it is in our local communities as well.

“This social issue [exists] absolutely everywhere.”

The charity hopes to show that having a safe place to call home is a right for the 116,000 Australians longing for a permanent roof over their head.

Fundraising Coordinator Jennifer Barrie says all funds raised from the sleepout will go towards supporting the people who need help.

“A lot of people are suffering, so all funds raised are appreciated,” she says.

“We think there will be a wave of people who need our help as the extra income from COVID-19 support begins to wind down.

“People are more aware of those doing it tough, but we still need to raise money and awareness.”

The Community Sleepout event is open to anyone within the state and will be hosted on Friday 23 October.

Television presenter Deborah Knight will host the virtual event, where a live stream will share information about the harsh reality faced by people living without a secure place to call home.

To register or donate, visit the Vinnies website.

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