3 June 2024

How many are sleeping rough on the South Coast and how can you help?

| Morgan Kenyon
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Vinnies’ Far South Coast team will soon be sleeping rough at Merimbula basketball courts, alongside five local CEOs. Photo: James Coleman.

If you’ve ever been coastal camping in winter, you’ll understand how easily an overnight chill can get into the bones. Now, imagine sleeping rough night after night, with nowhere else to go.

The Far South Coast has been facing an ‘invisible’ homelessness crisis for years, a crisis community leaders say the public is largely unaware of.

As Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn’s regional support officer for the Far South Coast, Corinne Brown works to support those in need from Batemans Bay all the way to Eden.

“Ongoing cost-of-living pressures and the current housing crisis are pushing more and more people to the brink. Neither will end anytime soon, so our assistance is more important than ever,” Corinne says.

“But most locals experiencing homelessness are very private. Many hide away overnight, sleeping in cars or the bush to avoid being seen.

“Because of this, they can be hard to find and the wider community has no idea just how many there are.”

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Corinne is spearheading a Far South Coast team for 2024’s Vinnies CEO Sleepout. It’s only the second time the event has been run locally, and Corinne says it’s a vital opportunity to raise awareness and support for those experiencing homelessness across the region.

“We have assisted more than 600 people listed as sleeping rough in the bush, their car or a caravan park over the last financial year alone,” she says.

“While we might not be able to ‘fix’ the housing situation, we can work to provide emergency accommodation for anyone without a secure place to live and prevent those teetering on the edge of homelessness from falling through the cracks.

“But we can’t do it without the help of our community.”

three people holding placards

Stephen Pope (middle) of Pope Logging is one of the business and community leaders on the 2024 Far South Coast sleepout team, who are asking for more to join them. Photo: Vinnies.

Pope Logging’s Stephen Pope jumped on the bandwagon for Merimbula’s first ever sleepout in 2023. He’s keen to do it all again this year and is calling for more local leaders to join him.

“It was a cold night and sleeping on concrete was about as comfy as you’d imagine, but our spirits stayed high,” he says.

“We knew we would have a warm meal and comfortable bed to go home to the next day – hundreds of people in our area would consider that a luxury.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to learn about the realities of being homeless on the coast – the more here, the merrier!”

Participants are only allowed a sleeping bag and a sheet of cardboard to lie on. They will be provided with soup for dinner and a bacon and egg roll for breakfast.

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Last year’s Far South Coast CEO Sleepout brought in more than $36,000, which helped to partially fund two specialist case workers for the area. This year the goal is to hit $50,000, to go towards tailored relief and crisis support for the Far South Coast.

Just over $18,000 has been raised so far across all participants.

“It would be great to have more case workers to help in emergency situations – Corinne and the team do a fantastic job, but it’s more than just a few can handle,” Stephen says.

“Our population is growing and the cost of living keeps going up, so there are lots of people out there struggling to make ends meet. There has to be a safety net to catch them.

“I challenge everyone to give up their comfort for one night to help someone who has no choice in the matter.”

Stephen, Corinne and the rest of the Far South Coast team will be sleeping out at Merimbula basketball courts on 20 June, from 6 pm to 6 am.

Register your interest under ACT and Surrounds to join the team (registrations close on 14 June), or jump online to show your support.

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