Aspect’s MD, Matt Sampson, recounts his experience of “sleeping rough”
At 6pm last night I changed out of my suit and into whatI deemed as my warmest hoody. I packed my sleeping bag and pillow, dropped my wallet, keys and phone on my desk and started the walk to Etihad Stadium.
As I walked through the city, it started to rain. My first instinct was to jump onto a tram, before I remembered that I was without my myki or any money… I continued walking
20 minutes later (and a little wetter) I arrived at Etihad Stadium, registered my details and had my photo taken (mug shot attached) and was given my bedding supplies. And by bedding supplies, I mean 3 sheets of cardboard.
I set to find my sleeping spot. In an attempt to make the experience as realistic as possible, I found a patch of concrete in front of Gate 5. While out of the rain, it was certainly not sheltered from the elements. Using the knowledge I had gained from 7 years of interviewing structural engineers, I laid two pieces of cardboard down as a mattress (or slab) and folded the third into a makeshift roof – constructing what I thought to be a stable structure.
We then listened to 3 homeless people talk about their stories, which I found particularly confronting. One presenter was the managing director of a successful construction company until last year, when the failure of a project sent him bankrupt. Another was the Director of a logistics company who developed a mental illness and lost everything. As a business owner, it was particularly scary to hear the stories of how you can go from wealth and success to having nowhere to sleep in a matter of months. The third was a mother of three who left her home as a result of severe domestic violence. The recounts of her life experience were enough to make your skin crawl. What I realised was that the stereotypical “homeless person”, the stranger on the street who asks you for change in the street, is not a true representation of the 100,000+ Australians who don’t know where they’re sleeping tonight. The vast majority of them once lived a life like me.
After the talks were complete, we took a quick group photo (attached) and, while some stayed up for a chat, I took the opportunity to reflect on the stories I’d heard in solitude.
And then to sleep. Without a watch, I asked someone for the time – 11:30pm. I was tired. Usually when my head hits the pillow, I’m asleep. Last night, however, was a different story. It was cold, windy and noisy. Not surprisingly, the concrete was hard and my two sheets of cardboard were no “memory foam” mattress. I woke up shortly afterwards to a collapsed roof (I must have miscalculated my wind loads in my roof design), trains rattling past and plenty of snoring.
After what seemed significantly longer than 6 hours, I came to the realisation that the “ordeal” was over and I could return home for a hot shower.
Thanks to your generosity, I was able to raise $3,760 towards battling homelessness in Australia. The event itself has raised over $4.7 million dollars so far this year.
In a time where I regularly complain about the issues like the state of the economy, business conditions, Melbourne’s public transport system, an overcooked steak…. this morning I “woke up” certainly more appreciative of what I have. My health, a loving family, great friends, a beautiful fiancé and a dog that only destroys my shoes occasionally. It was an experience that certainly put things in perspective for me.
Did I enjoy the experience of “sleeping rough”? No I didn’t. Would I do it again? I’m not sure, but I’m very glad to have a choice in the matter.
For more information on the event and to get involved in next year’s sleepout, jump on to www.ceosleepout.com.au. For information on St Vincent De Paul’s and how you can help, visit http://www.vinnies.org.au/home-vic.