A message from Canberra Campus Dean Associate Professor Patrick McArdle.
I hate the cold. I know it is odd for someone who lives in Canberra but I really hate the cold. I have well insulated and heated housing; excellent clothing to keep the winter at bay. In truth, I have avoided being involved in the CEO Sleepout for a number of years. My conscience got the better of me a few years ago and I nominated to do it but had to withdraw due to work and family commitments – I had tried hadn’t I?
Well, in 2018 the diary is clear, there appears to be no valid reason that I should not do this… and, truth to be told, the horrible wet and freezing conditions that people endured in 2017 has shamed me into participating. I have been generous with donating to this cause in the past, but I have known in the marrow of my being that I have been squibbing.
Australia is a rich country and Canberra is among the richest parts of the country – statistically the entire jurisdiction is effectively high SES. However, homelessness is a problem and a growing one. More people are living rough and, especially in winter, the services available are just inadequate. Something has to be done to address this and I need to be part of the solution or else, I am part of the problem.
Recently an ACU researcher told me of a project she has been working on with the ACT Government looking at the incidence and experiences of homelessness among 12 – 15 year olds in Canberra. I said to her, please tell me that the study ‘failed’ because there were no candidates available to be included? Alas no, there were people and unfortunately agencies indicated they could easily find many, many more if required.
The CEO Sleepout raises money for St Vincent de Paul’s work to combat and ameliorate homelessness and poverty. The funds go to meet real and tangible need. If any of the relatively small amount that I and people like me can raise can assist even one child, one family who are homeless this winter, then overcoming my own distaste for the cold will be worth it.
Vinnies has set a national target of just over $6 million dollars. Thus far $2.5 million has been raised. The website illustrates how small to medium amounts of money can make a real difference - $55 feeds a family for a day, $205 dollars relocates a person sleeping rough to a homelessness service; $500 prevents a family from being evicted.
Families in Australia are doing it tough at present – low wage growth, high youth and over 50s unemployment, together with rising costs of living. However, the people Vinnies works with, the cause of human dignity that they seek to address, are those with the most urgent and intractable needs in our community.
I have no doubt that on 21 June (the longest night of the year) that I will be cold, uncomfortable and a little bit miserable. Next day I will go back to my comfortable life and the warmth. Many of those who this effort is trying to assist may never have that opportunity without the assistance of those with some cash to spare.