Recently, I volunteered with two of my colleagues to be part of ‘Nite Under the Stars’. This idea to sleep out for a night and raise funds and awareness around homelessness was put together by a group of local services. I agreed to sell raffle tickets, get sponsorship and spend the night of August 7 in the freezing cold on the top roof of the Fairfield car park grounds.
Annoying friends and family to give up their hard earned cash was challenging but I was pleasantly surprised by how generous people can be. It was the ‘sleeping out’ that I was dreading most. I am not a ‘camper’ and fully rely on my creature comforts. Despite being from Ireland I am very much accustomed to the luxuries of a warm house and cozy bed.
Each service set up their information stands alongside volunteers who provided much needed warm soup and coffee stalls. The party atmosphere was infectious with children laughing on bouncy castles, face painting, photo booths and entertainment provided by fire throwers and dancers. An information area displayed services users’ stories and experiences of being homeless or victims of domestic/family violence. The auction was led by a lady from Fairfield Housing NSW whose humour captivated the whole audience. She managed to maximize every bid no matter what the product was. There was giggling and shouting to bid on dog food parcels, by many people who did not even own a pet. A torch that could be bought in the local supermarket for $2 reached over $100.
But when the lights went out at 12pm and the cold air kicked in, the laughter began to fade. People scattered and set up their camps. You could see eyes darting and people rushing to secure a place close to the warmth of the shopping centre doors. Lying on a hard, freezing cold ground, the reality of what we had signed up for took hold. Time seemed to go by so slowly and we agreed not to look at our watches because it just made the night drag longer. It was wishful thinking to even consider a few minutes of sleep in those conditions and when the sun finally began to rise, you could see how eager everyone was to get ‘home’. (And grateful they had one!)
The next night I viewed my own cosy bed with a new appreciation.
There was a great turn out with 131 people who attended the event and 59 people who slept out.
For more information see the ‘Nite Under the Stars’ Facebook page.
Written by Niamh.