Forest Primary School students supported their principal, Peter Brown, before his sleepout on the steps of the school last Thursday night, prompting discussions about homelessness among classmates.

Forest Primary School principal Peter Brown reflects on his experience of sleeping out in the cold for a night in support of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout on Thursday. As part of the initiative, St Vincent de Paul Society asks community leaders to sleep rough on a winter’s night, raising awareness and funds to help provide beds, meals and assistance for homeless Australians.

The main purpose of the sleepout from my perspective was to build student awareness of homelessness.

Initially the offer was given to participate in Launceston, but with the student councillors we decided we could promote a clear message by sleeping out here at school.

At the start when we had conversations with students about sleeping out, they struggled to understand the challenges many faced.

The grade six students and our student councillors spent the first few hours with me on the night, giving us the opportunity to talk about how lucky most of us are in comparison to the challenges some face across our community.

It was pretty cold which gave these students a pretty authentic experience. Our students were able to share some interesting data, like one in 200 people on average are homeless each night and that homelessness can impact children, families, adults and the elderly alike for a variety of reasons.

These students were then able to lead conversations the next day with classes across our school to build their understanding.

Once the students had gone I was able to rug up for the night and bunker down into a cardboard box out the front of the school.

I was fortunate that it didn’t rain and while it was chilly and uncomfortable, things could have been a lot worse.  

Students saw where I slept the next morning which helped generate the conversations about what others face each night.

The generosity of people in our community can never be questioned and again many were very supportive helping raise funds for this worthy cause.

All in all, I feel that we achieved our purpose to build awareness of homelessness and for kids to reflect on how lucky they are and what we can do to support others.

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