Who would think that the SVDP in Australia would get close to 684 Australian CEO’s to raise close to 3 million dollars just by eating a meal and going to sleep outdoors?

Kudos not only for the idea but also for the organization. It was a nearly  textbook operation integrating so many media channels – a well designed website complete with Twitter and Facebook feeds, Bench Diaries or video reports, quite moving and insightful, from the participants. It also modeled collaboration between the corporate and non-profit sectors. In short, another approach to systemic change.

“The aim of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout is not only to raise funds, but raise awareness of homelessness. The goal is not just to service the homeless, but to bring about an end to homelessness. The discomfort of sleeping on the streets is a fragment of the larger reality we hope to impart upon influential leaders of the community. With their help, and yours, we can fight the issue of homelessness together.”

It wasn’t easy since it involved each CEO lining up for meal of soup and bread and then sleeping on hard boards in close to freezing weather in most of the capitol cities in Australia. However brief it was first hand experience of what it is like to be homeless.

Contradicting commonly held stereotypes, the sleepout drew attention to the new face of homelessness – many people and families being forced into a place of disadvantage that they had never expected to be – first time homelessness . Young families; two-parent families; families with no history of domestic violence. Vinnies has responded to this growing and critical need by providing services to support families and individuals in crisis.

There have been similar nation wide campaigns in the Vincentian Family in the United states. See Friends of the Poor Walk for a different tack.

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