Victoria’s inspiring business leaders will brave one of the coldest nights of the year in Melbourne on Thursday night, 23 June, to raise much-needed funds for St Vincent de Paul Society of Victoria’s vital homelessness services.
Up to 180 business leaders from Melbourne, such as founder and chief executive officer of Reventon, Mr Chris Christofi, will join hundreds of other CEOs around the country at this year’s Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout to shine a light on homelessness and raise $9 million.
This year’s Victorian event will take place at The Timber Yard in Port Melbourne.
Mr Christofi, 42, of Melbourne. has participated in five CEO Sleepouts. He is this year’s ambassador.
He plans to raise a record-breaking $250,000 to improve the homelessness epidemic in Australia.
He has raised almost $300,000 for Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout since 2018.
Every year, 250,000 people sleep rough in Australia each night.
Sleeping rough can refer to anyone being homeless, sleeping in parks or squatting in derelict buildings or temporary shelter.
People sleeping rough are some of the most vulnerable people in Australian society.
“I experienced financial hardship in the early days of my career, and I’m acutely aware that it could easily have been me if I didn’t have the support of my family,” Mr Christofi said.
“It’s important that we always show kindness and compassion to our fellow human beings in need.”
Mr Chistofi plans to build a house with all the money raised.
He will donate all house sale proceeds to the St Vincent de Paul Society.
Chris will donate $3 for every dollar raised to reach his inspiring fundraising goal.
General Manager of St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria, Andrew McKenzie, said Chris sets a real example amongst business leaders on how to engage with the issues people face daily.
“The way he brings his professional expertise as a CEO to complex issues is impressive and practical.
“Vinnies are very proud to have Chris involved in our CEO Sleepout. His fundraising will make a real and tangible impact for people doing it tough across Victoria.”
A third of funds raised from this year’s Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout will fund housing and bedding at Ozanam House, which helps people like Garry transition into permanent housing.
Garry, 40, suffered a mental breakdown in 2015 after returning from living overseas.
Upon his arrival in Australia, Garry endured financial hardship and separated from his wife.
“I was having financial difficulties with my business, which led to other pressures. We lost our home, our investment properties, and the company,” Garry said.
“It all came crashing down, and the sheriff came in and changed the locks on our home. We sold the properties, and my wife and kids went to live with the grandparents.
“One day, I came home, and my keys didn’t fit in the lock, and I had to sleep in my car for the next three months.”
When Garry realised he had less than $100 in his account, alarm bells started to ring.
“I needed to do something,” Garry said.
“I Googled ‘Where can I sleep?’ and ‘free accommodation’, and I found a place in St Kilda who gave me a number for VincentCare, a homelessness support service.
“I had a chat with them, and they helped me receive Centrelink, which I wasn’t receiving at that stage.
“They gave me a voucher for a hotel the first and second nights, and then on the third night, they offered me a place at Ozanam House.”
Ozanam House provides flexible accommodation options and health and wellbeing services in North Melbourne to people experiencing homelessness.
Garry intended to stay for six weeks but ended up staying for six months until he found a more permanent living arrangement.
Garry became a community volunteer whilst serving breakfast and lunches at Ozanam House.
“That was to help me get back into a work routine,” Garry said.
“I also did a barista course, leading to a part-time job in a café, which I don’t do anymore.
“Vinnies also helped me get into a Tafe short course, which allowed me to apply for horticulture university where I did my degree. I’m now doing my Master’s degree.”
Chris continues to volunteer for a few shifts a month and runs a gardening club at Ozanam House for residents.
“When I was a resident, it helped give me a purpose. I knew I had to keep my plants alive so it’s motivating for residents and teaching them a new life skill,” Garry added.
Garry encouraged anyone who was sleeping it rough to reach out for help.
“There is always someone out there who can help. Ask Vinnies. They will help set you in the right direction,” Garry added.
“if you want help, there is always someone there who can help.
“Even if it’s one night a week in a hotel with a bed and a shower – that’s a night of decent rest.”
Garry reiterated to those sleeping it rough that they should never be embarrassed asking for help: “There’s no judgement,” he added.
This year, Vinnies Victoria’s theme is #ChangeStartsHere.
The theme will highlight Vinnies Victoria’s three-year plan to build $78 million in affordable housing in Melbourne and Bendigo through their partnership with the Victorian Government’s Big Build Project.
“No one wants or chooses to experience homelessness or poverty,” CEO of Vinnies Victoria, Ms Julia Cambage, said.
“It’s important for us to be aware of the stereotypes that commonly hold these individuals back from a full recovery.”
You can register for the Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout here: https://www.ceosleepout.org.au/
You can donate to Chris’ fundraising goal here: https://www.ceosleepout.org.au/fundraisers/chrischristofi/victoria
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.