Word on the street

Participants in Friday night’s Vinnies Community Sleepout gather around a fire pit on Emmett Street, buoyed by the music of Eli Perry on guitar. Pictures: Bodey Dittloff.

Cause. More than a dozen locals braved minus-degree temperatures on Friday night, taking to the pavement of Emmett Street for the Vinnies Community Sleepout.

The initiative aims to give participants a first-hand experience of sleeping rough for a night, raising money for the St Vincent de Paul Society while increasing awareness of homelessness: an issue affecting more than 100,000 Australians.

Driven by Circular Head Youth Leaders, the sleepout began at 6.30pm after the sun had well and truly set on the horizon, with participants signing in before receiving their mattress for the night: cardboard donated by WT House Betta Home Living.

The business shopfront quickly turned into a sea of empty boxes meant for large appliances, with some choosing to join their flattened bases together and others settling in to a makeshift box house.

As one lane of Emmett Street was closed to traffic, a fire pit was prepared under the close direction of CHYL member Callum Poke, with a steady supply of wood offcuts providing some comfort on a cold winter’s night.

A late supper was provided courtesy of Time Out on Emmett, which served up a hearty bowl of soup and bread roll to keep the hunger pains at bay.

Ugg boots, beanies and gloves became best friends and as the mercury dropped, the continual sounds of Eli Perry on guitar helped to lighten the mood.

Periodical toilet runs to Rural Health were an added luxury, though weren’t necessary for unofficial event mascot and pat-lover Clancy: the beloved dog of Rural Health youth and community development team leader Kate Cross.

A number of visitors stopped by to check up on the group’s wellbeing, some even bringing last-minute bedding supplies as participants gradually settled in to their sleeping bags for the night.

Some slept more than others on the hard surface, with concerns of snoring quickly laughed off in the morning.

But all woke to the same situation: Smithton’s lowest recorded minimum temperature in June of -3.9 degrees, highlighted by the icing over of car windows and sheets of white frost blanketing the paddocks of Circular Head.

The event officially ended at 6.30am before the sun rose and though breakfast and a hot shower were first on the agenda for many, it was hoped participants had a new-found appreciation for the harsh reality of homelessness.



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