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Thursday, 2 June 2011
Page: 5761

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (13:51): I congratulate St Vincent de Paul on their now annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout. The CEO sleep-out, which takes place on Thursday, 16 June, is an event that is designed to raise awareness of homelessness in our society, while at the same time raising much-needed money. Last year the CEO sleep-out raised $2.9 million nationally for people affected by homelessness. This money is vital to help St Vinnies provide crisis accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence, hostels for men, soup vans, access to medical care and so much more.

Sadly the issue of homelessness is not an issue that is new to me. My husband, Jon, has been a director of the Big Issue for over seven years helping, with so many others, homeless people to get a hand up, not a handout through the selling of the Big Issue street magazine. As the federal member for Higgins, I know that there are many people in my community who are affected. The causes of homelessness are varied. Often drug abuse and mental health problems play a part or there can be a need to escape domestic violence. People without homes are either estranged from their families or have no family to look after them.

I am pleased to be involved in this year's CEO sleep-out, which challenges business and community leaders to experience homelessness firsthand for one night. I will be joined by a number of my constituents who also feel strongly about this issue. Of course, when I do the sleep-out I am doing it for one night in one year. According to the last census there are more than 50,000 people throughout Australia who have to do it every night. And of course the true homeless figure is almost impossible to verify.