Port Augusta locals tackle homelessness

SLEEPOUT: Alexandra Wirth, Mary-Louise McKenzie, Kristy-Lee Copley, Chantelle Hancock, Jodie Parkes and Chloe Hunter.
SLEEPOUT: Alexandra Wirth, Mary-Louise McKenzie, Kristy-Lee Copley, Chantelle Hancock, Jodie Parkes and Chloe Hunter.

A group of 23 locals spent Tuesday night, August 7 at the Railway Station, trading their comfortable beds for the hard floor to get a feel of what it’s like to be homeless.

With temperatures dropping below six degrees, participants of the second annual St Vinnies Community Sleepout rugged up in their warmest clothes and sleeping bags, raising over $3200 in the process.

Organised by Mamma Lou’s owner Mary-Louise McKenzie, the event aimed to raise funds and awareness for an issue that exists within the community.

“We’ve been at Mamma Lou’s down at the Railway Station for two-and-a-half years, so it’s the perfect place to host a sleepout,” Mary-Louise said.

“We do have some people sleeping rough here. Railway Stations are common places for homeless people to sleep.”

All funds raised from the event go to Vinnies Port Augusta, with a particular focus on providing food packs for locals suffering from homelessness.

Both the number of participants and funds raised had almost doubled when comparing this year’s event to the inaugural sleepout in 2017.

Mary-Louise said it was a great effort by the community.

“It’s fantastic. That means it’s growing, we’re getting the word out, and people are committed to joining in and making a difference,” she said.

St Vinnies Zone Manager Anton Guidace revealed Vinnies’ Port Augusta base has a weekly average of about 20 to 30 visits from local men, women and children.

He praised the participants in the sleepout for raising awareness about homelessness.

“It gives everyone here the chance to see what it feels like to be out in the cold and on the hard floor because it’s not very pleasant,” Anton said. 

“The money raised makes a big difference. Whether it means that we can get extra blankets or bedding, or extra food that we may not have budgeted for, it’s just that little bit of extra money that helps us do what we need to do.”