RAY COLLINS: Vinnies CEO Sleepout

When I need to stay in Sydney for various meetings I stay at a hotel near Central Station. As I walk up to the Catholic Education Commission offices I often walk past homeless people, mainly men, who have just slept on the footpaths, in bus shelters, or in alcoves in the various buildings that mark the route. Similarly, in the evenings as I walk back to the hotel, I witness the same.

When I participated in last Thursday evening’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout we were asked, at one stage, to close our eyes and visualise what homelessness represents. These images of the streets of Sydney flashed into my mind, particularly as I had been in Sydney for the two previous days.

We were then shown some statistics on homelessness and they were very confronting. So many of them involved children and women.

Just a few months ago Annette and I were visiting Paris and after the Holy Saturday Night Easter ceremonies at Notre Dame Cathedral we were walking back to our hotel near the Sorbonne when, in the middle of the Latin Quarter I noticed a young mother with three children bedded down for the night on the footpath. The youngest child could not have been more than nine months old.

It shocked me to the core.

What the Vinnies staff communicated to the various CEOs present on Thursday evening was that such situations are very common in our community, whether it be on the streets or in cars or in very crowded accommodation venues which are far from what is desirable for anyone, let alone young families.

I came away from the Sleepout much better informed of what homelessness represents in our community and in total admiration for the work of the St Vincent de Paul Society and its work not only across our nation and the world but particularly in our diocese and our respective communities.

The Newcastle Sleepout raised just on $74,000 all of which will be used to support services for the homeless in our community. Nationally, $5,744,459 has been raised so far.

The highlight for me was to listen to the stories of three men who had experienced homelessness and who had been able to turn their lives around through the work of Vinnies, including the availability of the Matthew Talbot Hostel and the programs that Vinnies offer.

I encourage all our staff and families to consider sponsoring this year’s fund raising event. I can assure you every cent is making a difference to some homeless person’s life. To donate just go to www.ceosleepout.org.au .

A very big thank you goes to those who have enabled the Sleepout to raise the amount it has so far

 

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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