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Vinnies’ CEO Kevin Mercer ready for a cold night on the streets to raise awareness at a corporate level

Kevin Mercer: “We do it deliberately through CEOs to create gradual awareness at a corporate level within their networks and their organisations of the plight of people who are homeless, or are at risk of homelessness.”

ST Vincent de Paul Society’s Queensland chief executive officer Kevin Mercer is getting ready to sleep rough on the streets of Brisbane for the annual Vinnies CEO Sleep Out. 

One-hundred-ninety Brisbane CEOs will sleep on the streets of Brisbane the night of Thursday, June 20 in an effort to raise funds and awareness about Brisbane’s homelessness and homelessness services. 

$432,396 has been raised so far by the CEOS, with a target goal set at $900,000. 

Mr Mercer said the event was purposefully done through CEOs. 

“We do it deliberately through CEOs to create gradual awareness at a corporate level,” Mr Mercer said.

“We see each year the level of engagement that occurs within their organisations and within their networks gets higher and higher, and the amounts they raise becomes higher and higher, which enables us to do more work for those people in need,” he said.

“Whether it’s contributing to buying housing to get people off the streets, or those wrap-around services to help stabilise the housing position, or to prevent people from slipping into homelessness.”

Mr Mercer said he was apprehensive as it was his first time  participating in the Vinnies CEO Sleep Out. 

“I think it’ll be cold, based on the last few evenings we’ve had here in Brisbane – but I think it gives us an understanding,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ll ever capture what it’s really like to be homeless, but it gives us an understanding and that’s important that we have some empathy and some compassion for those people who are really doing it tough.”

A recent report from St Vincent de Paul’s national office said three million Australians were living on, or below, the poverty line. 

“We know from census data that there are 116,000 people homeless across Australia,” Mr Mercer said. 

“In Queensland that figure is about 22,000, but then there are a whole lot of other people that we can’t count. 

“It’s the hidden homelessness. 

“There are people in crowded housing situations; sleeping in the back of cars; they may have escaped domestic violence situations – it’s very difficult to count those people – as well as the group that are at risk of homelessness. 

“We know that, from statistics, 160,000 people in Australia pay more than 50 per cent of their income on rent. 

“Those people are at risk, as well as a number of others who are only one or two pay cheques away from being homeless.” 

In Queensland, the St Vincent de Paul Society has more than 500 crisis accommodation properties, and that number is increasing each year. 

“The funds from things like the CEO Sleep Out go towards funding those projects,” he said. 

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