Eighty University of Sydney students will sleep under the stars in the iconic Quadrangle this week to raise awareness of homelessness.
The Sydney University Young Vinnies Society will hold its sixth annual Winter Sleepout event on 20 August, transforming the cloisters of the Quadrangle into temporary lodging for students looking to learn more about the realities of homelessness.
“A lot of the people at the sleepout have never been on night patrol, they’ve never had any interactions with a homeless person before. They rarely have the chance to understand the situations which brought homelessness about,” said Cameron Dunger, President of the Sydney University Young Vinnies Society.
The idea of Vinnies as a society was founded at a university, so we’re trying to channel that way of thinking and promote this event as what it means to be a part of the St Vincent de Paul Society; advocacy and grassroots action
The sleepout is designed to give a small glimpse into the experience of homelessness, channelling the services provided by Young Vinnies through its night patrols and brekkie van programs. Attendees will be given a simple dinner and breakfast, as served to Sydney’s homeless community by the St Vincent de Paul Society each day, as well as cardboard bedding for the night.
Cameron, a third year Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Sciences student, said his time at past sleepouts had been eye-opening.
“There wasn’t any sleep last year as it was very cold, and the year before was very windy. The good thing about the Quad is while it does provide a lot of protection there’s a wind tunnel right through the middle of it. It exposes you to what it’s really like,” he said.
“The morning after the sleepout is a strong reminder that we can go home to our beds, whilst this experience is the daily life of those sleeping rough.”
Students are encouraged to bring along guitars, cards, and other skills to the sleepout, to mirror the many talents of Sydney’s homeless community.
“People often forget that homelessness doesn’t deprive a person of their skillset,” said Cameron.
“Last year we were joined by a man who had previously experienced homelessness and used music as a way of telling stories. We’ve been exposed to a wealth of knowledge and expertise from those we meet on the streets, as doctors and lawyers who have fallen on tough times, and as mothers and fathers. Something often forgotten is the human face of this issue.”
Sleepout attendees will hear insights from Senior Policy and Research Officer at Homelessness NSW, Digby Hughes, and General Manager of Fundraising and Communication for the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, Julie McDonald.
A screening of the short film What Makes Me Strong by Milk Crate Theatre, which showcases the personal stories of people experiencing homelessness and their moments of triumph, will provide a window into how people cope when facing a life on the streets.
All funds raised at the sleepout will go towards Young Vinnies’ homelessness services.
What: Sydney University Young Vinnies Winter Sleepout
When: 6pm Thursday 20 August until 8am Friday 21 August
Where: The Quadrangle, University of Sydney
Cost: $10 Access, $15 Non-access
Bookings: Register online
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