We took part in the Canberra Community Sleepout on Friday night.  As a sleep deprived breakfast announcer it was a pain in the ass to not get a good nights sleep after a hard week, but this was a worthwhile experience.  We all raised a stack of cash, but I think more importantly, everyone who participated felt a new connection to those in the community who don’t have a regular roof over their heads.

I’m so happy that I was there.  This is how it all played out.

image6.00 PM Arrive at the Australian Institute of Sport. Got a park quite close to the entrance. The car park and the lead up to the entrance was chock full of happy positive people.

Bumped into Frank Brassil from Vinnies and Lyn Harwood from Comms At Work in the carpark.  They both expressed thanks to all those who were undertaking this journey.  We unpacked the car and headed inside.  After a 35 degree day in Canberra it was still very warm at 6PM, I daresay still over 30 degrees.  Shorts and tee shirts were the order of the day.

6.05 PM Completed our registration and entered the arena. The girls were excited. Luisa and I believed that we were contributing to an increase in the average age of the Sleepout image

crew.  We saw lots of teenagers and twentysomethings. AS we entered there was very much a party feel as the band The Steptones were playing one of their sets at the northern end. Attila Ovari from Comms at Work pointed us in the right direction and we headed out to the grass to claim our sleeping spot.

6.15 PM Set up picnic blankets and sleeping bags way over at the southern end of the running track. We were surrounded by dozens of children playing and people kicking

imagefootballs. As the sun got lower in the sky the temperature began to fall.

6.45 PM The smell of bacon drew us over to the Rotary kitchen to get some dinner.  The volunteers were wonderfully helpful and bright. I scored a ‘Works Burger’ and coke.

We took dinner back to our ‘campsite’ and talked about the night ahead.  After 5 mornings of a pre 3am alarm, I figured I was tired enough to sleep anywhere.  Luisa wasn’t so sure.  Anna, Angela and Delaney were much more interested in the glow sticks from their goodie bags.image

7.17 PM The girls participated in some organised and some impromptu games. Luisa and I went for a stroll around the training track to take some pics and get a closer listen

to the band. This was a wonderful night. A bunch of young people had a massive touch football game going.  As the sun got lower in the sky we got a hint of breeze.

8.07PM The official stuff underway. MC Philip Clark welcomed us all and ran through some of the nuts and bolts of the evening.  Philip let us know that we were very close

imageto reaching the $100,000 fundraising mark. He introduced Lyn Harwood from Communities at Work and Frank Brassil of the St Vincent De Paul Society.  Soon after Kylie Ofiu told us her heart wrenching story of homelessness through domestic violence and Gary O’Hara gave us an extremely emotional overview of his homelessness through mental illness.  Both speakers delivered their messages so well.  At the end of it, you just wanted to go and give them both a big hug.  Their words would ring in our ears for the rest of the night.

9.16 PM Back at our ‘camping spot’.  The girls joined in some organised games down our end of the track and I ended up having a kick of the footy with a few randoms.  It

was enormous fun.  It was like we were a part of a happy little village.  Everyone was smiling. Nobody had any shoes on. We all felt that we were achieving something together. I did some more prompting on social media to rally some more donations.  Collectively we cracked it for $100,000.image

10.00 PM The first of the floodlights turned off and one by one they all switched off.  The last of them was off by 10.20pm. We bunked down on our picnic mat. To me it

seemed a little too warm for sleeping bags.  We got the girls to bunk down as well, but they seemed a long way from sleep.  As the training track became dark, there was still a bit of noise around the place.  The ball games were all finished but there were still a lot of young people playing with glow sticks.

image10.45 PM I fell asleep for the first time….for about 90 seconds. I was awoken by some loud laughing.

11.07  PM I’m asleep again, but woken within minutes by rainfall.  Yes it was raining on my head. We laid there in it wondering how heavy it would get. Some of the

sleepout crew headed for the grandstand, others pulled up stumps and headed for their cars.  We held out hoping it would ease off.  It did.  The girls constructed a little tent of sleeping bags for shelter and then went off to get milo.

11.45 PM Snoring again.

Midnight More rainIt wakes me again. There’s still a bit of noise from some rather exuberant sleepouters.  It’s much cooler now. In fact I’m a bit cold….and wet.  This was

one of the moments when the concept of homelessness really came home to me.  Homeless people have told me that one of their biggest challenges is the pursuit of sleep.  Despite my tiredness, I found it difficult.

12.45 AM Somebody is playing a ukele and singing in the grandstand. Despite that I sleep.

2.27 AM Awake again briefly to check on the girls. Everyone is a bit cold. We should have brought more blankets. Angela sleeps, but Anna and Delaney haven’t slept a wink.

2.38 AM Asleep again.

2.55 AM Apparently it rained again, but it didn’t wake me.image

image5.oo AM The big lights turned on and we were all awake.  The ukelele player was still going in the grandstand.  The Rotary Kitchen was fired up and we all struggled into

consciousness. We gathered up our sleeping bags and headed for the cars.  We were tired and a little sore.  Get got some McDonalds on the way home and crashed in our beds for another 3 hours.  We were extremely grateful for our beds and the warmth of the house.  If you’d like tip a bit more money in the tin, you can do so here.