IT might be hard to imagine in a wealthy nation like Australia but the number of homeless has reached 116,427.
It has increased 14 per cent since 2011.
But students at St Eugene College, Burpengary, refused to let the problem go unanswered.
St Eugene College hosted its annual Vinnies Sleepout with more than 60 students from Years 7-12 participating in an evening of raising awareness, reflection and fun.
To attend, students fundraised for the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Winter Appeal, and staff donated homemade soup, cardboard to sleep on and winter woollies for Vinnies.
The college raised $1612.20 – plus a small mountain of jumpers, coats and blankets for Vinnies to give people a helping hand.
College captain Samuel Fiorin said it made him realise how lucky he was.
“It was eye-opening because I had no idea there were so many people who were homeless,” he said.
Fellow captain Nicole Catalan said, “It was great to share the experience with younger students.
“It helped reinforce the fact that we should be grateful for all that we have.
“It was shocking to find out that people our age are facing these difficulties every day.”
Vice-captain Lachlan Tramacchi said, “It’s not until you immerse yourself in someone else’s experience and walk in their shoes that you realise how difficult life can be for teenagers just like us.”
The event finished off Catholic Education Week, concluding with Pope Francis’ 2016 World Youth Day message where he called young people and the Church to “open new horizons for spreading joy”.
“Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease,” Pope Francis said.
“Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.
“To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.”
All of the students embraced the experience of hunger, cold and discomfort – sleeping on cardboard boxes on the floor of the school hall.
The Year 12 student leaders worked with campus minister Alison Whitten and Vinnies youth engagement officer Emily Cramb to make the evening as engaging and eye-opening as possible.
They consistently reminded the students of the message “This is me … but it could have been you”.
Assistant principal for religious education Megan Kozak said, “They left Saturday morning with greater empathy, gratitude and desire to strap on their boots and discover new horizons for spreading joy.”