UniSA and Vinnies fight homelessness with community sleepout

Image Source: Pro Bono Australia

By Nikita Skuse | @nikita_skuse

On any given night in South Australia, around 6000 people are experiencing homelessness – nationally, it’s over 100,000 people.

These figures are according to Vinnies SA school and community engagement officer Jayne Shortt who said this may seem bad already, but it is getting worse.

Each year the number of people experiencing homelessness in South Australia increases by around 20 per cent, meaning this is quickly becoming a much bigger issue.

Ms Shortt said this increase is due to a number of things, including poverty, family breakdown, family violence, and cost of living.

“The cost of living is getting out of hand, so the cost of renting a property is making it really difficult for people to get in to accommodation,” she said.

In order to combat this issue, Vinnies has teamed up with UniSA to host a ‘Community Sleepout’, a partnership that Vinnies are extremely grateful for.

Ms Shortt said this event will raise some really vital funds for crisis centres in Adelaide.

“We have two shelters, we have a men’s shelter… and we also have a women’s crisis centre which houses women and children,” she said.

“About 80 per cent of that centre is women and children who are fleeing domestic violence so there’s a real need for a safe place for women and children to go if they’re experiencing violence.

“We know from a safety perspective that removing them from that environment is really important so the money that the sleepout raises also helps us with that centre.”

As well as raising funds, the event will also raise awareness about the issue of homelessness. 

“It’s putting the issue out there among students, among the university community, and it’s creating an opportunity for you all to have a think about what homelessness means,” Ms Shortt said.

“You’re giving up your comforts for the night and you’re giving up the safety and warmth of your own bed.

“You’re actually going to experience for one night what we know up to 6000 people a night are experiencing in South Australia so that awareness is just as important as raising the money to help us support people.”

Ms Shortt also said university students, especially those who are based on city campuses, are in a position to see homelessness, so it’s important to educate them about it.

“If they see a homeless person or if they encounter people who are sleeping rough, it might give them an opportunity to think about how difficult that must be for that person,” she said.

“It’s about, I guess, developing that empathy and thinking about well why has this person got to this point and thinking about what things might have happened in their life that created that homelessness for them.”

UniSA student life coordinator Chris Crabbe said UniSA first partnered with Vinnies in 2015 to host the ‘Community Sleepout’ and since then, they have raised nearly $20,000 to support those who are experiencing homelessness.

“The UniSA Community Sleepout is a fantastic event,” Mr Crabbe said.

He said UniSA is hoping this year’s event will eclipse previous community sleepouts in both attendance numbers and money raised.

“We have set ourselves the ambitious target of having 100 participants join the fight against homelessness and sleep out,” he said.

“It would be fantastic to raise over $10,000 at this year’s event.”

Just $30 will provide someone a bed for a night when in need of crisis accommodation and up to $1000 can prevent a family from being evicted from their home. 

Students who partake in the sleepout will give up their bed for a cardboard box and sleeping bag for the night.

Mr Crabbe said students will also hear from people who have experienced homelessness in order to understand how valuable their fundraising efforts are.

It’s likely that a number of UniSA students have experienced homelessness themselves, or know someone who has, at some point in their life,” he said.

Taking part in the 2019 UniSA Community Sleepout is a great way to support people in our community experiencing homelessness; by raising money to fund services and building their awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness.

“Students can make a meaningful impact!

UniSA’s ‘Community Sleepout’ will take place on Friday, 30 August at Magill campus.

To sign up or donate head to the UniSA website.


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