HUNDREDS of people are expected to converge on the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre lawn in Nowra on Saturday night for the inaugural Sleep Out Shoalhaven (SOS).
SOS coincides with Homelessness Week and Missing Persons Week and aims to raise awareness of the growing homelessness problem in the Shoalhaven and raise funds for three local organisations that provide homelessness services – All Saints Community Care, John Purcell House and CareSouth Youth Accommodation.
The brainchild of Elite Energy, director Mark Emerton saw SOS as a way to give something back to his community.
He spent Christmas day a couple of years ago helping feed homeless people in Sydney, which he said was “a real eye-opener”.
“I knew we had homeless problems in the Shoalhaven and this could be a way of trying to do something to help and also give something back to the Shoalhaven, an area that has been so good to me,” he said.
“We already have a good number of entries, individuals and groups and even some of our politicians, including Mayor Joanna Gash and Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis, will be taking part.
“But there is always room for more.
“A lot of people have said it is too cold to take part but that is the whole idea, to experience what a homeless person has to deal with on a daily basis.”
Participants could be in for a chilly evening as temperatures have plummeted to near freezing over the past few nights.
Up to 15 personnel from HMAS Albatross, led by commanding officer Captain Simon Bateman and commander of the Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro, will take part.
Although looking forward to the event, Captain Bateman and Commodore Di Pietro admitted the cold would be a challenge.
“We are delighted to take part in the event and support the fight against homelessness and support our community,” Captain Bateman said.
“Homelessness is a growing problem in the Shoalhaven and taking part in the SOS is our way to try to do something about it. The base has also been actively fund-raising for the event.
“It is a great initiative and hopefully the community will get right behind it.”
Commodore Di Pietro said he didn’t think one night out in the cold would be a realistic example of what a homeless person goes through.
“We are not going to suffer the way many homeless people do, night after night,” he said.
“This time of the year is cold, and we will probably complain about it on Saturday night, but there are people who battle the cold every night.”
There will be live music and the screening of an outdoor movie during the event.
Dr Michael Davey, who has ridden his pushbike around Australia raising funds for the Kids With Cancer Foundation, will complete his journey at the entertainment centre, arriving around 6pm.
No place to call home
IT is estimated around 100 people sleep rough in the Shoalhaven each night.
They can be homeless people sleeping outside or in whatever shelter they can find, or others having to sleep in cars or crashing on friends’ lounges or floors.
SOS will start on the lawns of the entertainment centre from 4.30pm and will continue until 7am Sunday morning.
Donations are encouraged to take part in the event – $10 for an individual child, $20 an individual adult or $50 a family.
Community groups, sporting clubs, schools or groups of friends can take part for $100 (one to five members) or $200 (six-plus members).
Local businesses can also get involved by sponsoring the event, with packages available ranging from $250 up to $1000.
Anyone keen to get involved in the project should contact Mark Emerton on 0413 765 248.
You can find out more information on the Sleep Out Shoalhaven Facebook page or enter through www.sleepoutshoalhaven.com.au