VPCM CEO Rachel Johnson's experience at the 2019 Vinnies CEO Sleepout
The evening began at 6 pm as all the participants began arriving. My first impression was that the set-up was very professional. We were processed quickly with ID checks, baggage checks and event photos.
Then we got to collect our cardboard for the night - three large sheets to be assembled as people saw fit. A Vinnies guide pointed out the sleeping zone where some people had already begun designing their home; some wrote their name on the cardboard and others doodled pictures and laid out their bedding.
Everyone was rugged up, warm and in good spirits. The next task was dinner and we all made our way to the soup kitchen for pumpkin, minestrone or chicken and sweetcorn soup. Really quite tasty with a bread roll and the volunteers at the soup kitchen were generous, warm and quite witty!
Somewhere around 8.30 pm we made our way to the presentation area where we heard from the CEO of Vinnies and some of the key supporters. After about half an hour we were given an intermission so everyone could stand up and move around; it had begun to get quite cold. I noticed that we could all see our breath on the air and some people were commenting on the cold coming up through their feet. Then we began again; we heard some true stories of everyday people who found themselves destitute and homeless. The stories we heard were incredibly moving; very sad but they were told with humour and left an impression I think on everyone there. I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that the charities that support the vulnerable in our society are very much needed.
After the formal proceedings there was more soup, hot drinks and muesli bars. People began making their way to the relative warmth of their cardboard shelters. Around 10.30 pm the lights went out so I wasn’t able to take any more photos. There was some stray light from the street and it was just enough to see the water droplets hanging in the air. The rain was pretty steady on the tin roof but the steady drum was quickly replaced with a growing cacophony of snores and snuffles. Then I fully understood why the lady selling ear plugs was onto such a good number!
The night was very cold and the air was full of water so everyone got a bit damp. In the morning (anytime from about 3 am), people began to get up and pack their bedding. The organisers and volunteers were serving the best ever hot coffee and bacon and cheese roll.
What an incredible experience to have,
when you know you can go and find a hot shower afterwards.
Tonight, 25,000 people in Victoria will be sleeping out on the streets again and it is a staggering statistic. I am glad that charities like Vinnies don’t look the other way.
Thank you to everyone who has donated to the homeless appeal this year. Your contribution has meant that together we raised $15,534 and that is a very worthy addition to the appeal.
Photos from the night
On arrival at the venue||
The cardboard dormitory takes shape||
Sleeping areas made ready for the night|
Vinnies staff serving soup||
Meeting some of the soup kitchen volunteers||
Getting to know each other over dinner|
With fellow 'sleepouters'||Presentations||
Listening to the presentations|
Settling in for the night|||