A CEO explains how it feels to spend a cold rainy night like a homeless person, sleeping rough

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull and Ned Moorfield at the CEO Sleepout in Sydney.

Ned Moorfield is CEO and co-founder of goCatch, the smartphone taxi booking and payments app. In this guest post, he explains what it was like to spend the night sleeping outdoors as part of St Vincent’s CEO Sleepout and why up-and-coming business leaders need to play their part in making the world a better place.

As I write, I am in a room surrounded by more than 60 people lying in sleeping bags. A thin layer of cardboard is all that separates us from the floor. The persistent patter of rain is punctuated by the occasional snore.

I’ve been fortunate to find shelter away from the rain, whilst others are scattered throughout the Luna Park site, in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge. There are people wedged between dodgem cars, strategically positioned between expanding streams of water, and sleeping on tabletops.

The Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, sleeps under a staircase near the popcorn stand. Malcolm Turnbull is tucked away in a sea of bodies. Meanwhile, many of Australia’s leading and newest CEOs huddle on the dodgem car track, praying that the showground soundtrack – or worse, the dodgem cars themselves – don’t come to life in the middle of the night.

We’re all here to raise money for the annual St Vincent de Paul’s CEO Sleepout, and it’s a testament to the organisers that they’ve rallied support from such high levels of government and business. With over $5.5 million raised this year, Vinnies will use the funds to deliver essential services that help the homeless rebuild their lives – and even more importantly, help prevent homelessness occurring in the first place.

With approximately 105,000 people homeless across Australia it’s certainly not a small problem to tackle. The focus this year is on addressing homelessness of women and children due to domestic violence. 40% of homeless people are women and 20% are children, often unable to continue schooling as their lives fall apart around them without a roof over their heads.

This is a cause that is close to my heart. I have been volunteering for Vinnies for more than 5 years now in Sydney, including at the Matthew Talbot Centre in Woolloomoloo. I’ve seen first hand how simple gestures like a warm cup of coffee (often loaded up with a generous serving of sugar, upon request) and a listening ear can bring comfort and a smile to those living tough lives.

I’ve also seen how important initiatives such as the Ozanam Learning Centre, which runs regular social and arts based activities for the homeless, bring meaning and purpose to people’s lives. These programs better connect the residents, who don’t have the safety nets of family and friends that many of us take for granted, to the broader community to help reduce their loneliness and isolation.

It’s a credit to everyone who lies around me (even the snorers!) that they’re are able to take some time away from their businesses and families to help those in need.

I’d like to thanks the many amazing CEOs that I met on the evening and spoke with, including Luke Baylis and Mark Maloney from Sumo Salad, who ran a phenomenally successful social media and in-store campaign and quietly raised over $200k for Vinnies. Also to Jane Lu from Show Pony, Gen George from OneShift, Taryn Williams from Wink Models, Mark Ghiasy from ExactMark, and Luke Jecks from Naked Wines.

All of the participants have set a great example to the future generation of young CEOs coming through the ranks. They’re a great indication that corporate philanthropy has a strong future in Australia.

If you’d like to make a donation to Vinnies Homeless Appeal it’s not too late. Simply visit the CEO Sleepout website here.

Setting up for the night on the dodgem car track. Photo: Ned Moorfield

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