Three local government CEOs from South Australia raised more than $5000 for homeless people by making Adelaide Zoo their home for the night on 16 June.
The trio swapped their doonas and electric blankets for park benches and cardboard to support St Vinnies’ national CEO Sleepout which raises funds and awareness for the homeless.
Peter Smith (Adelaide City Council), Andrew Johnson (Port Pirie Regional Council), and Mark Searle (Marion Council) joined more than 80 other CEOs from South Australia on a damp cold night among the zoo’s more permanent inhabitants.
“There are more than 1000 homeless people in South Australia, most of who have been driven onto the streets by family breakdown, unemployment, drugs, alcohol and domestic violence,” Mr Smith said.
“It was a privilege to raise money for these people through a sponsored sleepout and also to listen to some of their stories on the night.
“Councils are in the business of caring for communities and it’s important that we all recognise the need to support other people and remember that breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness isn’t easy.”
Presenter Theodora told a harrowing story of sexual abuse which forced her to leave home to live on Adelaide’s streets at 14.
Now married and working as a swimming instructor, she has beaten drug dependency and broken the poverty cycle where she was unable to access benefits because she was homeless, all thanks to the intervention of St Vinnies.
For Andrew Johnson, the experience of sleeping rough, if only for one night, brought home some of the day-to-day realities of living on the streets.
“Nobody is going to sleep well on a bit of cardboard or a bench,” Mr Johnson said.
“Add to that a poor diet, cold, the need to change clothes and keep clean, and everyday living becomes very tough."
Australia has more than 100,000 homeless people, 30 per cent of which are children.
This is only the second year the campaign has been run nationally and participant numbers increased by 300 to almost 1000.
This increasing engagement from organisational leaders is a step towards helping people get off the street, Mr Searle said.
“The more people become aware of the issue of homelessness and act to prevent it, the better for society as a whole,” Mr Searle said.
“Marion, like many other councils, contributes to preventing homelessness through youth support services.
“The sleepout was an important reminder that we must do whatever we can to help those who have to make the street their home.”
Donations can still be made at www.ceosleepout.org.au