A few bits of bad luck. That’s really all that separates any one of us from homelessness.

With that sentiment in mind, a team of NSW trade union leaders took part in this year’s Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout on June 20.

The concept is pretty straight-forward. Vinnies asks the nation’s corporate and social leaders to give up their creature comforts for an evening and sleep rough. But that’s only half the challenge. They’re also expected to rattle the can and pull in as many donations as possible.

This year’s union contingent included Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon, the SDA’s Gerard Dwyer, the RTBU’s Alex Claassens, NSWNMA’s Brett Holmes and the TWU’s Sammy Marfatia and Michael Aird. The SDA’s Barbara Nebart also took part in the Newcastle leg.

Armed with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a few folds of cardboard the team settled in for a cold evening at the Eveleigh Carriageworks.

The night itself was a little rough and most of the group were pretty bleary eyed the next day. However, while one night of sleeping rough is uncomfortable, in the company of good friends it is manageable. For the tens of thousands that battle chronic homelessness sleeping rough is more than a fleeting experience.

Indeed, it’s easy to lose sight of how easily any of us can find ourselves homeless. It’s also important to avoid rushing to judgement. More than 100,000 Australians sleep rough each night.

It doesn’t take much. A relationship breakdown or losing a job can trigger trauma, isolation and ultimately, poverty. And while sleeping rough for one night for charity does not fix the problem it does force business and community leaders to reflect on the policy solutions that might make life easier for those who do it every night. And it inspires us to raise awareness.

This year, the union contingent was among 1000 community and corporate leaders to take part in the sleep, and managed to raise $40,625. A great result, but one that can be beaten next year.

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