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150 sleeping rough to raise awareness of homelessness

21 June 2019: 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 Eden Park, over 150 participants braved the low temperatures on beds of cardboard to get an insight into what it means to sleep rough as well as raise critical funds to tackle homelessness. Their commitment was rewarded with over $200,000 by donations from family, friends, colleagues and the public. The funds will contribute to Lifewise’s focus on wider preventative work and how to break the cycles that so often lead to homelessness.

As well as raising funds, the Lifewise Big Sleepout aims to dismantle misconceptions surrounding homelessness.

“”Listening and talking to people who have experienced 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.”

Even though for many participants it was an uncomfortable night it was nothing compared to what people actually face on the streets, says Lawler.

“The most effective way to end homelessness is to stop it before it begins, using effective preventative approaches. People who end up homeless and on the street often take a predictable, preventable path into homelessness. For instance, there’s a strong link between foster care experiences and homelessness. That’s why we are so passionate about developing alternatives to foster care.”

“Breaking the vicious cycles that lead to homelessness is vital if New Zealand is to cope with a growing number of people experiencing homelessness.

“We're moving in the right direction, however, for most people, a home is only the first step in their journey. Being able to support tenants with wrap around services, driven by them, supports them to sustain their tenancies, address health needs, and re-establish their lives,” says Lawler.

The Big Sleepout was held at Eden Park for the first time. Nick Sautner, Eden Park CEO was among the participants.

“It’s pleasing that New Zealand’s national stadium can play a small part in helping whānau in need and spread a wider societal message in this multicultural city. Local and international patrons visit the stadium to create memories and enjoy moments together so bringing the Big Sleepout to Eden Park made sense as part of our commitment to supporting our community,” says Sautner.

Another participant Renee Coulter whose restaurant Coco’s Cantina has been part of the K Road community for 10 years commented:

“It was a tough night out in the cold, but its nothing compared to what people experience night on night when they sleep rough on the Auckland streets. The night has left me with an appreciation of what we’ve got but also how quickly it can all dissipate,” says Coutler.

Donations are still open at www.bigsleepout.org.nz

Images: BSO 2019

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