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Business community rugs up for a cold night out

Business community rugs up for a cold night out raising over $250,000

07 July 2017, Last night Auckland’s business, community and political leaders were exposed to the winter elements when they swapped comfortable beds for a sheet of cardboard to participate in the Lifewise Big Sleepout.

Huddled on the cold concrete at AUT Campus were Mayor Phil Goff, business and community leaders including Anthony Welton, Rachel Anthony, Barry Spears, Damaris Colter, Richie Hardcore, Mike Marr, Sarah Trotman, Michael Quirke and Dani Fennessy. They slept alongside 120 other participants braving low temperatures and beds of cardboard to get an insight into what it means to sleep rough and raise critical funds to tackle youth homelessness.

As well as raising funds, the Lifewise Big Sleepout aims to deconstruct misconceptions surrounding homelessness. The early part of the evening challenged participants to look at how they and their organisation could play a part in ending youth homelessness. A young woman gave a heart-breaking account of youth homelessness, having spent 15 years experiencing homeless. The final part of the evening was a thought provoking performance by singer songwriter Tommy Nee of Walk With You, a song commissioned by business leader Sarah Trotman who was sleeping rough for the 8th year.

“Listening and talking to people who have experienced youth homelessness, and sleeping rough helps participants see the issue differently,” says Lifewise CEO Moira Lawler. “It humanises homelessness, and gets people talking about how we must work together to solve this issue.”

It is estimated that there are more than 41,000 people in New Zealand have no place to call home. Over half of New Zealand's homeless are under 25. One quarter are children. While homelessness is a nationwide problem, it is most prevalent in Auckland, where rents for three-bedroom houses have increased by 25 percent in five years. Recent ‘street counts’ indicate a sharp rise in the number of rough sleepers in central Auckland, with more than 177 people rough sleeping within three kilometers of Sky City.

Even though for many participants it was uncomfortable night it was nothing compared to what young people face on the street, according to Lifewise Youth Project Manager Victoria Hearn.

“The most effective way to end homelessness for people is to stop it before it begins with effective prevention. Homeless people travel a predictable path into homelessness. On their way into homelessness, every single person comes into contact with a person, program or system that could prevent their homelessness. We need to be promoting and implementing early intervention strategies and programs,” says Hearn.

This was the 8th year Sarah Trotman ONZM has participated in the Big Sleepout. Like many others who took part in last night’s event Trotman believes there are too many homeless people in New Zealand and that we all need to be part of the solution.

“It’s a tough night out in the cold, but it’s nothing compared to where people in Auckland sleep night after night. What continues to resonate with me is luck has so much to do with how we live our lives. As Lifewise say, you’re only three live events away from being homelessness. I hear and see this in the lives of the homeless people I talk to,” says Trotman.

According to first time participant General Manager of Auckland Surgical Centre at Southern Cross Hospitals Michael Quirke it was a pretty wet night, but the rain kept away the extreme chill factor so it wasn’t as bad as it is for some people night after night.

“The evening has definitely left me appreciative of what we’ve got. That any young person in this small nation should need to sleep like this is not right,” says Quirke.

To donate help Lifewise end youth homelessness in an empowering and sustainable donate at bigsleepout.org.nz.

- Ends -

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