‘Sometimes it’s too much to bear, can you carry my load? I know the streets snatch you up so we rarely die old. I used to sleep next to bakeries to gain some warm. It’s kind of crazy how they saved me in the heart of the storm’.
The lyrics above sung by Australia’s Got Talent Semi-Finalist contender D Minor, still raw and real for the brave young people who shared their turbulent life stories with the audience from their time on streets.
It was an experience like no other. On the 1st of November 685 people who registered for the Stepping Stone House Sleep Under The Stars Event (SUTS), held at Hickson’s Reserve on Sydney Harbour started to arrive.
The event hosted by Not For Profit Organisation Stepping Stone House was designed to raise awareness and funds by giving the community a taste of homelessness by sleeping under the stars. That it did!
As participants began building their disposable accommodation laughing and carrying on getting ready for the night ahead a homeless man stumbles past, he was perplexed by what was unfolding. I paused for a moment and took a deep breath. The banter and noise around me suddenly muffled by my thoughts. It was as if everything was going in slow motion. At that very moment I experienced a flurry of emotions, sadness, guilt, anger swirled with a feeling of satisfaction that we were actively part of the change that Australia so desperately needs when it comes to homelessness.
While what we were doing was an incredible thing, it was for me, this moment, that truly epitomised the experience. The simple fact, there is no easy way to be homeless. Every moment or action needs to be carefully thought through. Finding a safe place to sleep is rare, limited bathrooms, being judged by everyone who walks past, eating whatever food can be sourced (if any). There is no scheduled daily routine. The focus as heard by our guest speakers is pure survival! What little items they have packed in a bag or shopping trolley, ready to relocate at any time, some younger than 10.
At 10, I have vivid memories of my parents yelling at me as I’m running out the door after school “be home before dark”. We all knew when the street lights came on it was time to stop playing and go home! A home where there was food on the table, chitter chat about what events had taken place that day and the possible luxury of some Neapolitan Ice Cream if we ate all our vegetables. In contrast to our homeless youth, I’d won Lotto.
That evening, we experienced strong northeasterly winds, our box shelters, and items blowing about but it was a far cry from a hailstorm, treacherous rain or a 45 degree summer day.
What we achieved that night was impressive, through the event we collectively raised $497,241.00 something we can and should all truly be proud of.
For every dollar invested in our youth homelessness through long term housing and education programs like Stepping Stone House, it saves taxpayers $3.40 in welfare support later on. That’s a good ROI in my eyes.
For the incredible 65 Kennards Team Members, our suppliers, families, and friends who donated (some Team Members even making multiple donations) please know your money will make a lifetime of difference to the young people in their care.
To my fellow FREEDOM Fighters, my Team who bravely got behind the event and slept rough for the evening, Kudos to you. While most were sleeping in their comfy beds, you were selflessly sleeping on a piece of cardboard in the elements.
The money raised will support 13 youth at risk for a whole year through the Stepping Stone House Full Care Program. In five years Stepping Stone house has a goal to increase this to 200 across various locations in Australia.
As Jason Juretic (Stepping Stone House CEO) recently said in an article “It takes a village to raise a child. Everyone who took part that night combined with everyone who donated is that village.”
To all involved thanks for being part of the change and giving our youth at risk the chance to make their mark in this world.