$1 Million Raised for Homeless Ahead of June's CEO Sleepout

$1 Million Raised for Homeless Ahead of June's CEO Sleepout

London : United Kingdom | May 28, 2012 at 1:32 PM PDT
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Vinnies fundraisers include the annual CEO     Sleepout which raises millions each year

With three and a half weeks still to go before Vinnies' annual CEO Sleepout for the homeless on 21 June, donations have topped the $1 million mark.

The million dollar figure was reached this morning and has raised expectations of the final total for 2012 reaching a record-breaking $5 million.

Already 824 high fliers across Australia have signed on for the seventh CEO Sleepout to raise funds and awareness of Australia's more than 105,000 homeless with a further 200 expected to take part.

Among the most recent business heavyweights to sign to participate in this year's Sleepout is high profile CEO of Westpac, Gail Kelly, millionaire politician Malcolm Turnbull, ABC's head honcho Mark Scott and Housing NSW's Mike Allen.

This year marks the first time Gail Kelly has taken part in the event. She says it is the high number of young people among Australia's homeless that was key to her decision to bed down with 270 other Sydney CEOs on a mid winter's night with nothing more than a sleeping bag and sheet of cardboard to keep out the cold.

"It is particularly disturbing that almost 34,000 young people under 18 are experiencing homelessness," she says and admits she is extremely proud to be part of an event that not only raises money but awareness in support of the homeless and creates programs aimed at prevention.

The widespread response by Australia's CEOs to Vinnies Sleepout and an increasing awareness of the plight of the homeless has meant a change of venue for the Sydney event this year. Instead of Luna Park where the event has been held for the past three years, this year's venue will see the city's movers and shakers spending the midwinter night on 21 June at the historic Carriageworks in Redfern.

The brainchild of Bernard Fehon, leading Sydney businessman, financial planner and a long time of St Vincent de Paul Society, the first CEO Sleepout was held in 2006 at the Telstra Stadium at Homebush. A Sydney-only event, just 20 CEOs took part with $30,000 raised. By the following year the number of those participating had doubled and the amount raised topped $60,000. But it was in 2009 that the CEO Sleepout really took off with 215 CEOs taking part and more than $250,00 raised.

By 2010 the event had gone national with high fliers such as Fortescue's Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest signing on.

Last year Britain's flamboyant multi millionaire Sir Richard Branson donated $20,000 to Vinnies CEO Sleepout for the homeless by sponsoring Virgin Australia chief, John Borghetti. Other big names taking part last year included Commonwealth banking honcho, Ralph Norris and John Hartigan, the then chairman and CEO of News Ltd.

While CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society's National Council CEO, Dr John Falzon says funds are urgently needed to help support the homeless with shelter, food, job skills training, soup kitchens and a wide range of other services, changing public attitudes to those doing it tough is equally important.

"The Vinnies CEO Sleepout is all about changing hearts and minds, and changing negative attitudes that people doing it tough somehow deserve it or that it's their own fault. Instead of being demonised these people should be respected and admired for their tenacity, courage and inventiveness," he says.

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     Westpac chief, Gail Kelly disturbed by number     of young people experiencing homelessness
By 2010 the event had gone national with high fliers such as Fortescue's Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest signing on.
Zubair Justin is based in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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