“EVEN when the staring cynics and self-absorbed scoffers write the homeless off as losers, the homeless can rest in the truth that people such as yourselves take the time to care.”
Queensland’s St Vincent de Paul Society president Brian Moore offered these words of support to 176 of the state’s chief executive officers bunkered down on the night of June 20 at Brisbane’s South Bank Piazza.
“If we … enter into the lives of the homeless and other suffering human beings, we touch the holy – in the other and in ourselves,” he said.
“Everyone knows that in the difficult moments in life, it is so important that compassionate people recognise our weaknesses and take care not to quench the flame of hope that barely flickers within us.
“So therefore just like the Good Samaritan, it is important that compassionate people meet us, love us, embrace us, bind us up and give us a hand up to step into the next phase of our journey.”
The 2013 Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout has raised $774,527 for the society’s homeless services in Queensland.
An auction of items, including a blanket crocheted by Year 5 girls from All Hallows’ School, Brisbane, raised about $25,000.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale bought the blanket for $2200.
Other speakers included Gary Poole, homeless as a 14-year-old youth, but now running a successful boutique bed-and-breakfast business at Mt Tamborine.
Merlo Coffee CEO Dean Merlo, at his third sleepout, also introduced a video segment which tracked his experiences visiting three St Vincent de Paul Society centres receiving funds from the event.
Mr Merlo spoke of the estimated 105,000 Australians who are homeless.
Setting the figure in a local context, he noted this number “could fill the Suncorp Stadium”.
He visited Hope House for women and children who were victims of domestic violence, the Inala Family Support Centre and the Gold Coast’s Families Back on Track project.
From visiting these centres and talking to people supported there, Mr Merlo said “I came to realise this one night in June is actually changing people’s lives”.
Other business and community leaders sleeping out with three pieces of cardboard for bedding and a cup of soup and coffee included Brisbane Mayor Graham Quirk, State Treasurer Tim Nicholls, Brisbane Catholic Education executive director Pam Betts and Supreme Court justice Martin Daubney.
Scott Flynn, from Kenlynn Properties, was announced as Queensland’s top fundraising CEO this year. He raised $38,820.
Mr Flynn said this was his second top-fundraiser award since he first slept out four years ago.
“Sleeping rough for a night and hearing the stories from people affected by homelessness inspires me to raise as much money as I can,” he said.
“It has changed my life and given me an understanding of the issue and the impact it has on the lives of people.”
The $732,976 raised in Queensland will go towards St Vincent de Paul Society services such as supported accommodation for people at risk of homelessness, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, food distribution, low-cost food outlets, and child and family support.
National donations for 2013 stand at $5,400,915.