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Lifewise Big Sleepout brings hope to homeless

Aucklanders sleeping rough at Lifewise Big Sleepout bring hope to homeless - and break fundraising and participant record

Last night, 107 influential Aucklanders ‘slept rough’ at Auckland’s AUT campus, to experience a little of what it’s like, as they took a public stand against homelessness. This number was a record for the Big Sleepout event, which began in 2010, and took place during the most inclement of weather conditions.

With little more than a sleeping bag and a sheet of cardboard, participants were exposed to the elements and temperatures that reached only 6 degrees at midnight. “I think it was the coldest night that we’d had at a Big Sleepout in the 5 years that we’ve been doing this,” says Lesley Mynett-Johnson, Lifewise’s Communications and Fundraising Manager.

Not only about exposing what is often an invisible issue, Lifewise’s Big Sleepout is also one of the main events on the organisation’s fundraising calendar. The 2014 goal was to beat last year’s figure (of $152,000), which was well surpassed to achieve a total of $154,227.39 by breakfast. The website is open to receive donations throughout the rest of the month of July.

As well as vital fundraising, the night delivered on its promises to be informative and life changing, as participants heard from Nicola Atwool, Associate Professor for the Department of Sociology, Gender & Social Work at the University of Otago. Nicola talked about the challenges and possible outcomes for children who are in state care and the need to address the ‘gap year’ for 17 year olds who leave the system with limited or no transition and the inability to access housing, income support and the other resources they need. “It’s too young to expect people without family support to manage on their own.”

Performances from Waxed Poetic Revival and a heartbreaking account of her experiences by 22 year old, Chanelle Haffenden, spoke to the resilience of young people and bought tears to participants’ eyes, working to dispel many of
the myths that surround homelessness.

Moira Lawler, General Manager of Lifewise and Corie Haddock, Manager of the Crisis Response and Housing team, shared an insight into the evolution of the organisation’s ‘no bandaid’ approach to homelessness – from ‘working for’,

to ‘working with’ – and shared some of where the organisation is going next.

“We are continuing to expand and develop Lifewise’s services and we do believe that together, we can end homelessness. We’re starting to use our capacity to provide social housing to support young people to become independent and maintain their own tenancies.”

The Lifewise team were pleased with the event’s outcomes and would like to acknowledge the commitment of sponsors, including AUT. The relationship between AUT and Lifewise is broad and operates on a number of levels, with AUT providing professional development to Lifewise’s leadership team and Lifewise offering placements to AUT students. The AUT Hospitality School was also involved in the establishment of Lifewise’s community café, Merge.

AUT Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack “This event puts the spotlight on an issue for which all society is responsible for.

AUT has worked with Lifewise on projects assisting homeless people over several years. We are pleased to hold this year’s event once again at AUT City Campus”.

Dinner, catered by Merge, was served in the Whare Kai, underneath a slideshow that celebrated the 108 people that Lifewise has housed since last year’s event. A breakfast of baked beans and spaghetti on toast greeted weary participants early on the crisp morning.


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