The CEO Sleepout last Thursday night was another humbling and thought-provoking experience for me, plus the other 100+ WA CEOs who braved the cold and hard concrete floors of the WACA, armed only with a thin piece of cardboard, a sleeping bag and a pillow.
I found the same spot I had used 6 years earlier, and actually got more sleep than I anticipated (2 or 3 hours maybe?). While some wanted to be on the grass outside (the dew and wet would make that very uncomfortable), I snuck down to the bowels of the Lillee Marsh stand to claim a quiet spot next to the cafeteria. It was warmer than expected, although a cold breeze came though in the early morning lowering the temperatures to single digits.
In all, the 104 CEOs of Perth (and their generous supporters) outdid all other capital cities other than Sydney in terms of donations.
Money goes to the St Vinnies, and is put to good use. Homeless shelters, places where homeless people can get a shower, clean their clothes and sleep the night, are provided for the 9,500 who sleep rough every night in Perth, part of the 105,000 across the country. Mental health services, support, social justice advocacy and partnerships are provided.
The stats are saddening – homelessness starts young. 40% were homeless before aged 15, so they are at school. Often the school is unaware.
Over half start out their homeless journey coach surfing at friends or relatives (63%). Usually it has been spawned by parental conflict and/or domestic violence which means they are on their own. If no other options are available they go to a street or a park (16%). They have basically left home, and have nowhere else to go.
53% have mental health issues, 20% have attempted suicide in the past 6 months. 84% are unemployed. Only 31% complete year 12.
Youth homelessness takes up a disproportionate amount of GP time and costs, so too hospitals, emergency, law courts and victim assault services. Usually they are the victim. Being out on the streets is not safe. (At least we CEOs were perfectly safe, the odd discomfort for one night our only issue.)
All of this costs the tax payer $750 million a year, yet the amount of money provided for homelessness overall is far less.
Research shows that the simple fact of providing shelter greatly reduces their instances of crime, victim assault, suicide and mental health issues and greatly improves their chances at school and in getting a job.
It starts with a place to call home.
Then, if education and training can be provided, their life can be changed for the better, and they can join society on an equal footing.
All power the CEO Sleepout and the Vinnies. Well done and thanks to the CEOs and their supporters. Thanks for over 50 generous souls, I raised over $5,800 for the cause, more than double what I raised when I last did the sleepout in 2010.
You can still give to the cause (up to the end of August), so please donate if you can – the cause is so important, and the money goes to great use.