Next month, SBN CEO Rachel Brown will be spending a night on the streets to get a taste of homelessness and learn more about what it means to sleep rough – she’ll have a sleeping bag, some cardboard and the clothes on her back (and a woolly hat).
“Does anyone want to sleep with me?” Rachel poses the question, with a grin on her face, to the Sustainable Business Network staff sitting in the crowded lunch room.
After a moment she, and the rest of the staff, erupt into laughter, but they all know homelessness isn’t a laughing matter.
The Big Sleep Out is Lifewise’s annual fundraiser to help combat homelessness in Auckland.
For Rachel it may only be one night but for many New Zealanders, inside and outside of Auckland, sleeping on the street is a nightly occurance. According to Lifewise, young people under 25 make up half of New Zealand’s homeless population.
“Homelessness is a sign of our systems failing,” says Rachel.
It’s a failure that she notices everyday. “Every morning I walk into town it seems the number of homeless people is increasing.”
Rika is just one of the teenagers Lifewise has helped. When she came to Lifewise she was homeless, hungry, had dropped out of her degree weeks before graduating and was pregnant. Lifewise gave her a new start and second chance.
She now lives with her partner and is a fulltime mum and artist.
It’s plights like Rika’s that Rachel wants to understand more fully.
“A part of getting involved in this has been to educate myself on the issues and also to help fundraise for Lifewise to help people get their lives into a better place.”
The Big Sleep Out is taking place on the AUT University city campus on 2nd July.
Rachel is planning on being as prepared as possible but is hoping for the luxury of a clear night.
“I’ll be wearing as much warm clothing as I can find to sleep in….although I’m not too sure how much sleep I will actually get.”
While she lies awake on the cold concrete of the AUT campus she’ll have plenty of time to reflect on the magnitude of the issue.
“I want to be part of a more caring society where people in this is situation are not seen as the scum of our city but, rather, people who need our collective support.”
Rachel is aiming to raise $1500 for Lifewise and you can help her reach her target by donating here.