In 1993, I fell behind in my rent and was evicted. I had a job, but for the next 4 months I lived in my car while I saved up enough money for a months bond and a months rent on another place. I would park in a car park near my old place for the night, and in the mornings, drive to a caravan park near by, sneak in, have a shower and go to work.
Since then, I have made a good living for years as a Chef, and Entrepreneur, for the most part living selfishly and not giving a second thought to those sleeping rough.
In May 2015, I was walking along Carlisle street in St. Kilda East, Melbourne, to my local Coles supermarket. As I approached the brand new Bank of Melbourne I see a bright, white doona crumpled up in the tiny alcove of an unused doorway. As I got closer I noticed there was a man curled up in the doona, on the hard concrete floor, trying to get some sleep… at lunch time.
So many people were walking past, looking, but moving on with their day, as I have probably done since 1993. This time I couldn’t walk past, I stopped and asked him if he was ok… he said “yeah mate, thanks, just trying to get some sleep”. He looked so tired. I said, “here mate” and gave him the $20 I had in my pocket. His eyes lit up, he smiled and was so grateful. He shook my hand, thanked me again with a smile and curled back up under the doona. When I got home, I told my family what had happened and tears rolled down my face.
That man, trying to sleep on a concrete floor, in the middle of the day, on a busy city street affected me in a profound way. And that’s a mild story; for many sleeping on the streets are being subjected to terrible weather, harassment, bullying, being robbed and worse. No one should have to live like that.
Charity. For me, charity is practical. It’s the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better.
I’m not a religious person, but there’s a story in the bible about a man beaten near death by robbers. He’s stripped naked and lying on the roadside. Most people pass him by, but one man stops. He picks him up and bandages his wounds. He puts him on his horse and walks alongside until they reach an inn. He checks him in and throws down his Amex. “Whatever he needs until he gets better.”
Because he could.
The dictionary defines charity as simply the act of giving voluntarily to those in need.
Using my 20+ years of business experience, I set about developing a simple solution with a mission; to provide people sleeping “rough”, a safe overnight place to sleep. The more I developed and researched a solution, the more I discovered what a good nights sleep can do for a persons physical and mental health. Just being able to sleep through the night, warm and safe can give a person a whole new outlook on life.
Sleep Bus is distinct, yet complementary, to existing efforts from other organisations supporting Australians experiencing or at risk of ending up on the streets. Our work aims to fill a ‘gap’, rather than overlapping or replicating activities that support the urgent needs of people in Australia.
The least we can do is provide safe overnight accommodation to people sleeping rough in Australia, until they get back on their feet.