Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bosses become homeless for charity - The Sydney Morning Herald - 20th June 2008

Armed only with a sleeping bag and a cardboard box, some of Sydney's top business executives have braved the rain and cold and slept rough on the street to help raise money for charity.

About 60 CEOs and business leaders, including Steve Martin from the Real Estate Institute of Australia, Kell and Rigby CEO James Kell, along with federal Labor MP David Bradbury, all queued for a hot cup of soup at a food van and slept in a cardboard box underneath the rides at Sydney's Luna Park.

Event organiser St Vincent De Paul CEO John Picot said he hoped some of Sydney's richest men would be confronted with the realities of homelessness.

"The experience that we and the other CEOs will have exposes us in a very, very small way to the experience of homelessness," Mr Picot told AAP as he bunked down for the night.

"Because, at the end of the day, we'll go to bed knowing that in the morning there'll be something hot for us to eat. Knowing we can go home or go to our workplace and our lives will return to total normality and security and safety.

"These are the issues facing homeless people every night of the year."

Mr Picot said he was leading by example, exposing himself to the elements on the verandah underneath the Tumble Bug ride, but he had invested in a thick sleeping bag.

"Last year, it was the coldest night of the year in Sydney," he said.

"I borrowed a bag from one of my colleagues ... but it was a bit thin. This year I've got one that's a bit beefier."

Mr Picot said everyone should worry about Sydney's homelessness.

"With the sharp increase in costs of living, we are now seeing one in 200 Australians homeless and alarmingly the average homeless person is a 35-year-old male," he said.

The leaders raised money by collecting sponsorship.

Volunteers from St Vincent De Paul spent the evening speaking to the CEOs about the work they do, while former homeless people told them about the challenges they face daily.

The event coincided with Vinnies' Winter Appeal which aims to raise funds and awareness of poverty in Sydney.

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