A regular review of interesting cultural shifts & marketing developments as viewed through the collective lens of the Stancombe Research + Planning Team

Monday, June 28, 2010

The 2010 Vinnies CEO SleepOut

Sleeping Out At Luna Park

About 10 days ago I joined the CEO Sleepout for a night outside in my sleeping bag

The tardiness of this report is due to a heavy does for flu that my daughter brought home from school and I coincidentally caught the weekend after sleep out - apologies!

So, here is my report on the St Vinnies CEO Sleepout.

Firstly, to all my sponsors a huge thanks. In the early stages of this adventure I had a few problems getting emails out and I was on the point of one last go before calling it a day. But then good old Elise Kelly put money on my head and I was committed. The email problem got sorted and generous donations started to roll in.

I raised nearly $4,000 which really surprised me. The generosity of friends, colleagues and business associates was overwhelming and on the Thursday night I rolled my wheely case in through the gates of Lunar Park, registered and collected a couple of sheets of corrugated cardboard.

The doorway to Coney Island will never be the same again! I spotted the doorway and was in like Flynn. There were a couple of steps up so I was off the ground, I had cover over my head and a windbreak from behind.

I staked my claim and wandered up to the auditorium where the 'proceedings' were beginning.

The host of the Radio National breakfast programme Fran Kelly MC'd the proceedings and over 100 business executives listened to some real stories from the street. Stories of domestic abuse, mental illness and unemployment, all with a common strand - that the storytellers all ended up sleeping out.

It made me realise that without a support group of friends and family, for many the margin between a normal life and sleeping rough is a very fine one.

As an example, an ordinary family man told his story: He was a chap who was a manual worker and was made unemployed at the same time as his wife. Within a few weeks all of their cash reserves were gone and he was evicted, along with his wife and two kids from his rented property - to the street.

St Vinnies picked them up and gave them enough interim support to enable them to get back on their feet. St Vinnies basically saved them. He is now re employed and his family housed again, but suddenly I realised that the margin between a normal life and horrible times is very thin for some.

And we were told that there is a shortfall between emergency accommodation of about 50,000 places per night - every night of the year.

So, after hearing these stories, a cup of soup and a roll I settled in to my quite warm sleeping bag. I got out my torch and book and settled in for a bit of a read.

Then it all began to strike home: I felt a bit hungry, no trip to the fridge, I wanted a wee, a trek to the nearest bathroom that was a 100 metres away, I couldn't get off to sleep, there was no sofa or late night TV to watch and damn, it was uncomfortable. The ground was hard and it was getting really cold. Later there were people chatting nearby and I realised that I'd feel very exposed and unsafe if I was sleeping out in a public space.

Eventually I slept and awoke at an ungodly morning hour feeling sticky and grubby and unshaven.

I have to confess, I didn't stop for the free coffee and porridge. I quickly rolled up my sleeping bag, tidied up my cardboard sleeping mat, bolted out the gate and got into a taxi.

I went home for a hot shower and a hug from the family!

On the way home I did some maths in the taxi, altogether we raised nearly $3 million that night, there are about 50,000 people sleeping out every night. That's about 18.25 million bed nights per year that are needed around Australia. The money we raised across Australia contributes about $0.16 cents per bed night.

It looks like I might be sleeping out again next year!

Thanks for your generous support.

Michael Combley

Company Director
Stancombe Research & Planning

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