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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Virtual sleepout helps the needy in real life

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Julie West, Alicia and Craig McNiven with son Kobi, Fred’s Place staff members Megan Claeys, Alysia Hopkins and David Holmes, and volunteer Paul Varley. Photo supplied.

A date to put in your diary is 23 October – that’s the day that the sleepout for Vinnies Fred’s Place homeless service in Tweed Heads will be held.

Tweed Heads residents will join communities throughout the state in a series of linked-up NSW Vinnies Community Sleepouts on Friday 23 October. Thousands of supporters in regional NSW will bed down in their cars, backyards and couches to simulate the homeless experience and raise funds to support people experiencing homelessness.

Fred’s Place manager, Alysia Hopkins says previous sleepouts were a great success. ‘We greatly appreciate the support of Seagulls.’ The ABS survey of 2016 found around 450 people were homeless in Tweed Shire, half of them ‘primary homeless’, meaning sleeping rough. The numbers have increased since then.

Ms Hopkins said COVID-19 has placed extra pressure on those who rely on Fred’s Place, and in turn greater demands on services.’It’s more important than ever for

us to maximise our fundraising.

‘The virtual sleepout is a new way of doing things, and we hope to attract a lot of supporters who might not have been able to actually take a night off to sleep out.’

Local business adviser Julie West has supported Fred’s Place for several years and participated in past sleepouts. Ms West says that since realising the extent of the homeless

problem in Tweed, and the great work done by Fred’s Place, she has been committed to the service. ‘They serve hundreds of breakfasts and snacks each week, and provide so

much vital help to people doing it tough.’

The Tweed Heads event and 11 others around NSW will feature livestreams from participants sharing their experience. They follow the success of the virtual CEO Sleepout in June, which raised over $5.7 million to support Vinnies homelessness services.

Funds raised locally will be directed to Fred’s Place, which assists people experiencing hardship with food, medical assistance, bathroom and laundry facilities, free computer and phone access, housing support and referrals to essential services.

Vinnies NSW CEO Jack de Groot is urging regional communities to unite in a show of solidarity with locals experiencing or at risk of homelessness: ‘Between drought, bushfires and COVID-19 there are a lot of people unsure of when the tide will turn’ he said.

‘We know around 40 per cent of people sleeping rough in NSW live outside major cities, while people with children are seeking specialist homelessness support at higher rates in regional and rural areas. With the funds raised from the NSW Vinnies Community Sleepout we’ll be able to continue assisting people doing it tough at a time when they need it most.’

People can register to take part and donate at: fundraise.vinniesnsw.org.au/joinnow.

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