Canberra Community Sleepout

Homeless for a night, an experience that humbled me

Recently I took part in an event hosted by Communities@Work and St Vincent de Paul to raise awareness and much needed funds for homeless people in Canberra.

We were required to brave the Canberra weather and sleep outdoors in a stadium as a homeless person would. I started a GoFundraise page and got my work colleagues involved both in the sleep out and also with assistance to fundraise money to be given to these two organisations.

I thought raising funds was going to be the hard part so when it came to the day we had to sleep out; I was really excited. I borrowed a sleeping bag and yoga mat from a work colleague and headed to the stadium after work. Six of my work colleagues came along to take part in the sleep out with me. We played card games and told jokes until ten pm then two work mates had to go home. That left five of us and when the temperature started to drop; we quickly set up our sleeping bags.

The weather had been warm during the day; it had reached a top of 30 degrees so I had not anticipated that the weather over night would drop to under ten degrees. It was going to be a long night – I only had the sleeping bag and a light blanket!

When it started to drizzle rain the five of us decided to go to the bleachers in the stadium for shelter, however the security guards had other ideas and told us we were meant to sleep in the middle part of the stadium. At midnight, we were cold, disgruntled and just wanted to sleep and finish the challenge. It was at this point we lost two more colleagues who decided to go home, that left three of us to brave the cold.

At this point, I just wanted to pack up my sleeping bag and go home to my nice, warm and comfortable bed but I wasn’t going to give in; after all, I am the one who started the challenge and thousands of homeless people do this every night!

We resettled ourselves in the sports field, third time lucky – I hoped. I got into my sleeping bag and immediately dozed off only to be woken by moisture on my face. It was raining again!
The reality of being homeless really sank in and this wasn’t fun. And suddenly the reality of being homeless was understood. I covered my head with the blanket I had and hoped the rain would stop – eventually it did and I curled up and waited for the morning.

I was so happy when the sun came out. I knew I was going back to my house, where I could make a hot cup of tea and curl up comfortable and warm in my bed. I felt lousy and helpless for one night, but thousands of Australians out there go through this every night.

I joined the event thinking I was helping others to become aware of what happens each night to our homeless and yet I had no clue what homeless people go through until I slept outside for a night.

It was a humbling experience and I am glad I took part.