Friday, June 19, 2009

The bosses bed down rough to raise money, by Josephine Tovey - The Sydney Morning Herald - 19th June 2009

It was a cold, wet dose of reality.

As the skies opened above them last night, more than 220 chief executives and business leaders huddled together at the St Vincent de Paul Society's CEO Sleepout at Luna Park.

By 7 o'clock the mostly male participants had arrived to vie for dry spots armed only with sleeping bags and cardboard sheets.

Brian McCarthy, the chief executive of Fairfax Media, which publishes the Herald, and the Fairfax publisher Lloyd Whish-Wilson found a dry patch under an awning. The NSW Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney, scored a prime piece of real estate in the dodgem car pitch.

St Vincent de Paul's community development co-ordinator, David Starr, said the search for a dry spot mirrored what the city's homeless would be doing. "Some would be in hostels but a lot would be sleeping anywhere they could find, alcoves and doorways, just to get out of the rain."

The entrepreneur Dick Smith, who raised $11,669.78 in donations, wanted to experience homelessness rather than simply writing a cheque. "Giving money, especially if you're well-off, doesn't hurt very much, but tonight is going to be hard … I've been very fortunate in life, and any time I've slept outside it has been voluntary."

By early yesterday evening about 12 millimetres of rain had fallen on the city and the downpour was expected to continue throughout the night.

By yesterday the event had raised $461,663, well in excess of the $250,000 organisers predicted last month. The money will go towards 37 homeless shelters, including a new purpose-built shelter for families and women, due to open later this year.

The chief executive of St Vincent de Paul, John Picot, said the economic downturn might have inspired the high number of participants this year. (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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