Sleepout to raise awareness for Auckland city's homeless

By Simon Collins, Vaimoana Tapaleao

Members of public sleep rough to raise money and awareness for those without a home.
Reporter Catherine Gaffaney said a range of people took part, from business professionals, to politicians and young people. Photo / Dean Purcell
Reporter Catherine Gaffaney said a range of people took part, from business professionals, to politicians and young people. Photo / Dean Purcell

People of all ages and walks of life braved the elements sleeping rough in Auckland last night to raise awareness about homelessness in the city.

A total of 135 people took part in this year's The Big Sleepout, run by Lifewise, at the Auckland University of Technology.

Established in 2010, the event encourages members of the public to sleep rough while raising money to help Lifewise's efforts to house homeless people.

Herald reporter Catherine Gaffaney was among the rough sleepers last night. Just before 8pm, she said the atmosphere was good and a range of people were involved from business professionals, councillors, to politicians and young people.

"Everyone was given a piece of cardboard to lie on. Some people got here quite early and got the good spots - under the shelter. I've seen a few people in onesies.

It's not raining, but it's pretty windy."

Each participant received a bag with a tarpaulin, as well as a beanie and information about the event.

Lifewise was aiming to raise $400,000 towards their cause this year. By 8.30pm donations had almost reached $300,000.

Lifewise chief executive Moira Lawler says the night was a success despite being it being their biggest yet "wildest" so far.

"It was terrific. We had thunder and lightening and pouring rain and some people got wet, some people moved positions because where they thought was going to be a good place turned out not to be a good place to sleep ... And it wasn't that cold. Interesting weather but the temperature didn't really drop that much. It was wet and windy and wild."

She says the weather was a good eye-opener for those who had taken part in one of their six earlier challenges and not endured such challenging conditions.

"You can do the sleepout on a beautiful day and forget that people who do this every day don't get many choices and I think for some people it was more of a reality check, really ... I think it's a good thing in lots of ways and also people were very good to each other and there were instances of friends created around dripping drainpipes.

"Quite a few people were perhaps a little bit more up close and personal than they might have expected because they had to huddle together where it was dry."

Lawler says due to the worsening weather they did consider offering people spaces inside but everybody was happy to stay out in the open.

"As usual we had people say that they had good sleep and they would happily do it again and others saying they wouldn't trade their bed for anything."

Meanwhile, homeless Aucklander Shaun Farrell will be warmer this winter thanks to a specially tailored coat donated by a Catholic order in Australia.

The 40-year-old has lived on the streets since he was a teenager and sleeps in a tent under a bridge in the central city.

He has had jackets in the past but did not have one this year until yesterday when the James Liston Hostel gave him one of 100 big padded raincoats made for Auckland's homeless by the Australian branch of the Order of Malta - a lay order that cares for the poor and marginalised.

"One guy said to me when it's real cold, you can wear like three or four layers. I bought a tent and a mattress and two sleeping bags and I asked people where are the driest places to sleep."

NZ Catholic spokeswoman Dame Lyndsay Freer said the Order of Malta had given away 10,000 coats for Australia's homeless and decided to give some to New Zealanders after one of their lay leaders visited Auckland recently.

"He was disturbed to read about the homeless in Auckland," she said.

- NZ Herald

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