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Social Justice: CEO Sleepout raises $2.6m

Evan Ellis
Evan Ellis.
With Evan Ellis

This year for the first time the Society of St Vincent de Paul’s CEO Sleepout went national, raising more than $2.6 million. The CEO Sleepout is part of Vinnies Winter Appeal, which aims to raise awareness about homelessness, and to raise funds for Vinnies homeless services.

ABS figures show more than 100,000 people do not have a home. While this statistic refers to a lack of housing, homelessness is an issue beyond mere bricks and mortar.

The reasons for homelessness, like the makeshift dwellings or the people themselves, are diverse.

Prime Minister Rudd has rightly called homelessness a “national obscenity”.

The onset of winter only worsens the situation. Earlier this year a pretty nasty debate broke out about whether homeless people should be blamed for their predicament.

One of the most insightful voices in that public discussion came from Dr John Falzon, CEO of St Vincent de Paul’s National Council. “Everyone has a story. And they don't happen in limbo,” he said. “They happen in the context of developing social and economic structures. Each person's story is a unique intersection of the personal and the political. Each intersection continues to change.”

We all make choices. We do so in a broader context, e.g. maybe you have chosen to go overseas recently. Why? Because you love travel. That’s the personal. But maybe you only did so because flights were cheap. This was because carriers needed to remain competitive during the global financial crisis, which was triggered by the bursting of the US housing bubble. That’s the political. Together they make what Dr Falzon calls an ‘intersection’.

Homelessness is similar. Dr Falzon attempted to move the debate beyond apportioning blame to being aware of these intersections, particular when “choices are constrained for those…systematically locked out of the nation's prosperity.

This winter we should remember those left out in the cold and support organisations like Vinnies, which offer ‘a hand up, not a hand out’.

Volunteers are needed for the Vinnies Winter Doorknock Appeal in August. To register as a volunteer or make a donation call 02 9689 1900 or go to 

Evan Ellis is the Diocesan Social Justice Co-ordinator
02 8838 3413


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