Wollongong Vinnies CEO Sleepout donations peaked $150,000 last night, as business leaders gave up their beds to sleep in the cold.
Thirty-six CEOs slept under shanty cardboard roofs at St Mary’s Star of the Sea College to raise funds for St Vincent de Paul Society homeless services.
The statewide target was $5 million, but that was eclipsed by about $1 million.
Vinnies Wollongong Central Council executive officer Peter Quarmby said the Illawarra was facing an “endemic problem” that “sometimes government just aren’t geared up to respond to.”
“Until we actually have a whole community response, where the people are saying it is not good enough in one of the wealthiest countries in world to have people sleeping rough, then we’re not going to get the change,” he said.
“For governments, it’s not going to become the highest priority until they believe this is something that could vote them in.”
According to Vinnies, more than 1500 people are homeless in the Illawarra on any given night.
Tim Grey has participated in the Wollongong sleepout for seven years, and this year raised about $1,000 from sponsors.
He said he didn’t feel equipped to effectively approach homeless people.
“They (Vinnies workers) know how to reach out and communicate in a way that’s effective,” he said.
“So it’s like, if I can partner with Vinnies then that’s a far more practical way than me doing it directly.”
Mr Grey said the sleepout provided an opportunity to hear firsthand stories from homeless people.
“It’s surprising that it’s not the ‘Oh, you know, I grew up homeless and I’ve always been homeless’, it’s people that have gone about a normal life and then something’s happened,” Mr Grey said.
“A loss of job, a breakdown in relationship, mental health issues, domestic violence.
“It could be your neighbour, your friend, your work colleague.”