On one of the coldest nights of the year, the Medibank Customer and Brands leadership team joined 140 other leaders in Melbourne to sleep outside to raise awareness of homelessness in Australia. Now in its 17th year, the Vinnies CEO sleepout seeks to raise much needed money to fund beds, support, meals, food vans for the growing number of people who don’t have a safe place to call home.
We were provided with a sheet of cardboard to cushion us from the cold hard concrete that was our bed for the night. It was cold, uncomfortable and strange even though we had sleeping bags, access to toilets and the knowledge we were safe – privileges that people sleeping rough simply do not have.
While the experience may not be ‘real’, the impact it has had on me very much is. Throughout the evening, people who have been homeless shared their very real and deeply personal stories. Hearing about their experience brought home the hard reality that this can happen to anyone. Be prepared to have any preconceived notions, biases and stereotypes well and truly challenged – it's frighteningly easy for people living in this lucky country to find themselves homeless.
For me, it really hit home when I got home. When I got to tuck my kids into a safe bed in a safe bedroom, have a hot shower, open the fridge, and hop into a warm bed at the end of the day. I have never been as grateful that I get to feel safe and warm, and that I have choices.
Many of us are incredibly privileged in so many ways. With this privilege comes the ability to help in some way. Whether that’s raising money or awareness, or stopping to have a chat with someone who you may have looked away from before.
As a team, we raised more than $30,000 for St Vincent de Paul Society and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who supported us financially or wished us well. We’ll be back out there again for the Vinnies CEO Sleepout 2024 – knowing what to expect, but also knowing we all have a chance to do more.