Peter McNamara: Join the Vinnies CEO Sleepout

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Peter McNamara, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW state president. PHOTO: St Vincent de Paul Society NSW

On Thursday 17 June business and community leaders from around the country will spend a night sleeping rough as part of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.

As State President of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, I will be among the many braving one of the coldest nights of the year in the name of bringing about change for the more than 116,000 people currently experiencing homelessness across Australia.

Since 2006, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout has highlighted the struggles faced by the most vulnerable members of our communities, while raising vital funds which help the Society assist the growing number of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“The Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a prime example of Christ’s message in action that it is more blessed to give than to receive”

When Sydney businessman Bernie Fehon first pitched the concept of foregoing a formal fundraising dinner with a sleepout for business and community leaders, he couldn’t have envisioned the enduring legacy the event would have all these years later.

As the Vinnies CEO Sleepout heads into its 16th year more than $60 million has been raised in total nationally.

Each year people who have been assisted by the Society bravely share their stories on the night, while challenging participants to take action by advocating for change within their own organisations and at higher levels.

It is in these moments that I am most heartened by the ongoing success of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout. While COVID presented an unexpected opportunity for many to reflect on the way life can turn for the worst, the times we currently live in lead many to distance themselves from the hardship faced by those less fortunate.
The Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a prime example of Christ’s message in action that it is more blessed to give than to receive, along with the importance of serving rather than expecting to be served.

At the darkest hour “Vinnies was there”

One of the men set to share his story on the night, Phil, speaks of a life with no warmth before receiving support from the Society. “At my darkest, darkest hour Vinnies was there; they shined a light, I put my hand out and it was taken.”

The Vinnies CEO Sleepout has the ability to change thousands of lives, such as Phil, by providing crisis accommodation, food, clothing and healthcare to people in need of a hand up, all the while supporting them to find permanent housing.

The funds raised will allow the Society to make a difference, but more needs to be done at State and Federal levels to ensure everyone is able to go to bed each night with a safe, secure and stable place to call home.

At present, 51,000 applicants – or the equivalent of more than 110,000 people – are currently waiting for social housing in NSW. The Society has actively campaigned on the need for more social housing and is hopeful of an announcement in the upcoming State Budget.

Every year the Vinnies CEO Sleepout makes a difference in the funds raised, awareness raised and lives that are changed for the better. You can support the event by donation at www.ceosleepout.org.au.

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