High Flyers Raise $3.75 Million Ahead of Tomorrow's National Sleepout

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
19 Jun 2013
NSW Vinnies CEO Michael Perusco and Holly Kramer CEO of Best & Less with onesie suits
Tomorrow night on what promises to be one of the coldest nights of the year, 1118 high flyers from across Australia will sleep rough under a sheet of cardboard as part of St Vincent de Paul Society's annual CEO Sleepout.
Aimed at raising awareness as well as funds for Australia's more than 105,000 homeless men, women and children, the CEO Sleepout is now in its eighth year and with $3.75 million already raised is well on track to top last year's $5 million mark and is tipped to raise a whopping $7 million.
In Sydney, temperatures are set to fall below 10 degrees with showers also forecast. But on the day before the winter Solistice and the longest night of the year on Friday, 21 June, many of the city's 327 CEOs taking part may be cosier than most thanks to a donation of 200 blue, red, orange and striped "onesies" donated by Holly Kramer, CEO of Best & Less.
A first-timer at the CEO Sleepout, Holly made history this year by raising more $120,000 ahead of the Sleepout from generous donations not only from the company's 5000 employees but from Best & Less customers across the state as well.
Malcolm Turnbull who took part in the 2012 Sleepout has so far raised almost $40,000 for the homeless this year
Along with the 200 "onesies" Holly has donated to keep many of NSW's CEOs warm, her company gave a further 1000 warm winter pairs of pajamas to Vinnies' Matthew Talbot Homeless Services to distribute to families and children most in need.
The annual CEO Sleepout is now a national event with Sleepouts taking part in every capital city of Australia as well as Wollongong, Newcastle and Tweed Heads.
In Brisbane this year, former PM Kevin Rudd who vividly remembers the months he and his mother and brother were homeless after his father's death, will again take part in the Sleepout.
In Sydney two other well known Federal MPs will also be unrolling sleeping bags and covering themselves in cardboard to experience for a brief time just what it is like to to be homeless and forced to sleep rough.  Malcolm Turnbull, Shadow Minister for Communications will again join the CEO sleep out at the Redfern Carriageworks tomorrow night and has already raised almost $40,000 for the homeless. Mark Butler, Federal Minister for Housing and Homelessness will also be taking part along with 325 other Sydney CEOs and community leaders.
Kevin Rudd will take part in the Brisbane CEO Sleepout again this year
Among others taking part in the Sydney sleepout will be Andrew Scipione, NSW Police Commissioner; Andrew Stoner, Deputy Premier of NSW; Deborah Hutton of Balance by Deborah Hutton, Bernard Boerma CEO of CatholicCare and Michael Perusco, CEO of Vinnies NSW.
As he has done every year, Dr John Falzon, CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society's National Council will also participate. But this year instead of Canberra or Sydney he will be sleeping rough in Australia's top end.
"I will be doing the CEO Sleepout in Darwin and spending the night at Fannie Bay Gaol," he says. While he admits it will be far warmer in Darwin than in Canberra where he usually spends the Sleepout, he believes it is important to raise awareness of homelessness in the Northern Territory which has the highest proportion of people per head of population in Australia who are currently without a home.
While Vinnies CEO Sleepout is expected to raise at least $5 million for the homeless this year, equally important is raising awareness about homelessness and removing stereotypes. This includes being homeless is the person's own fault and that they should have worked and tried harder to hold down a job.
Dr John Falzon, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society
But with most of us only a few pay cheques awayfrom  homelessness. The unexpected loss of a job or a regular income could see us unable to pay the mortgage or rent and if we are without family to help out, forced out of our houses or flats and onto the streets.
Contrary to popular misconceptions the majority of the homeless are in their late 20s or early 30s with the fastest growing number of homeless women who have fled situations of domestic violence and with children and no income, forced to sleep in their cars or bed down at shelters or with friends.
Currently more in NSW alone, more than 17,000 children under the age of 12 with 56% of the homeless men and women across the State under 35.
"Homelessness in a nation as prosperous and as rich as Australia is nothing short of scandalous," Dr Falzon says.
"There will always be some in the community who think people who are homeless are the ones who must change; that they must be subjected to some form of 'tough love,'" he says and points to the Federal Government's refusal to increase the Newstart Allowance in this year's budget, despite the fact the allowance has not been increased over the past 19 years and at just $497 per fortnight has not kept pace with the rising cost of living during this time.
Instead of helping the unemployed or the single mothers and their children the Government moved onto the payment in January this year Dr Falzon says the allowance has forced them to live below the poverty line.
Last year more than 300 Sydney High Flyers took part in Vinnies CEO Sleepout for the Homeless
Submissions from Vinnies, welfare and social service agencies as well as businesses urged the Government to increase Newstart by at least $50 per week. But the Government refused, insisting that by keeping the allowance low would force the unemployed and single mothers, once their child reached the age of 8, back into the work force.
Keeping people below the poverty line and punishing them further for being homeless is not the way to create a smart and confident Australia, Dr Falzon warns and insists the key to ending homelessness lies not in the homeless themselves but with society as a whole.
"On the eve of the CEO Sleepout we are specifically calling on both sides of politics to embrace partisan support for the 2008 White Paper target to halve homelessness by 2020 and to offer a place called home to all those who are sleeping rough," he says.
According to Dr Falzon, any steps towards halving homelessness, let alone eliminating it, must  include a guarantee of the basic human right to housing.
"There also needs to be a strong investment in education, especially focussing on students from disadvantaged backgrounds and pathways to secure and sustainable employment, including an adequate rather than impoverishing income support system for those who are outside the labour market."
The Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a powerful symbol, he says. "But it is only a symbol. As a society we need to do much more."