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Winters chills biting into Queensland

Warm hearts: The St Vincent de Paul Society's John Campbell with students from Stretton State College and the clothes they have collected to help the homeless. Seated left is Penelope Clarke-Cawthorne, the college's English and drama teacher and student council co-ordinator


Winters chills biting into Queensland

FALLING temperatures around Queensland have prompted Catholic charities to step up their efforts to support the state’s more than 20,000 homeless people.

Queensland’s St Vincent de Paul Society has held its CEO Sleepout as part of a national campaign and will hold a Vinnies Community Sleepout in Brisbane on July 4.

Rosies street ministry has also galvanised support from schools, with St Francis Xavier Primary School, Runaway Bay, and Holy Spirit School, Bray Park, giving substantial donations to the charity’s winter appeal.

The Vinnies’ campaign has spilled over into organisations outside the Church.

Employees from Parmalat at South Brisbane recently donated four containers of good quality pre-loved clothing and winter gear.

This followed the involvement of the company’s chief executive officer Craig Garven in last year’s CEO Sleepout.

“Almost 20,000 Queenslanders will face homelessness tonight, an alarming statistic that got us thinking about what more we could do,” he said.

“The 617 staff across the facility spent the (recent) long weekend sorting through their wardrobes and cupboards finding items they no longer needed or used.”

Stretton State College students on Brisbane’s southside have also run a successful clothing drive, collecting more than four donation bins of quality pre-loved clothing and winter gear.

The drive was organised by the college’s student council.

Society spokesman John Campbell said the passion and contribution of the students would help families in the surrounding suburbs facing tough times.

“When I came out to talk to the students, I was pleasantly surprised by the number and readiness of them to help make a difference,” he said.

“To come back to see this enormous pile of clothing they have worked so hard to collect to help those in need this winter is just fantastic.”

Queensland St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive officer Peter Maher said this year’s CEO Sleepout, held on the night of June 20, had again attracted “fantastic fundraising support” from the business community.

Leading fundraiser Geoff Rodgers, of Rowland, has raised almost $19,000 closely followed by Dean Merlo, of Merlo Coffee, on nearly $17,000.

“This money has the potential to provide crisis accommodation for 1100 people at risk of homelessness and meals for 4400 disadvantaged children,” Mr Maher said.

“It could also keep the power on in 2200 homes this winter or save 220 families facing eviction from their home.”

Mr Maher said according to the 2011 Census, Queensland had the third-highest rate of homelessness in Australia.

“About 27 per cent of these homeless are children under 18, 57 per cent are under 34 and 24 per cent are Indigenous people,” he said.

“More than 177 CEOs from across the state were given three pieces of cardboard to sleep on (at the sleepout) and a meal of soup and coffee,” Mr Maher said.

Those present from Brisbane’s Catholic community included three school principals – Kerrie Tuite, of Mount Alvernia College; Brendan Cahill, of Brigidine College; and Helen Sinclair, of Stuartholme School.

Others included Supreme Court justice Martin Daubney and Brisbane archdiocese Centacare director of community support Kerri Lanchester.

Ms Lanchester, participating in the CEO Sleepout for the first time, said Centacare worked closely with the St Vincent de Paul Society as “part of a community of awareness as well as in the area of fundraising”.

“It should not be not up to one organisation to do it all,” she said.

“The sleepout is an excellent example of how community leaders are coming together to raise awareness of the 100,000 or so people across Australia experiencing homelessness.

“I understand the Queensland CEOs have already raised about $383,000 so the campaign has been very effective.”

Rosies manager Bob Boardman recently discussed homelessness issues with Year 4 students at Holy Spirit School, Bray Park.

He said he was impressed by the students’ commitment at such a young age to support the homeless.

Those wishing to support Rosies Winter Appeal can learn more at

Funds raised in the Vinnies Community Sleepout on the night of July 4 will go towards helping people in Brisbane.

The sleepout aims to not only raise funds but also to raise public awareness as a way of ending homelessness.

There are also community sleepouts in regional centres around Queensland including Toowoomba, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast.

Registrations and donations for Vinnies Community Sleepout can be made online at



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