Brisbane, Australia — Thursday 7th February — Daytime.
10.26 am — My son text me, “Good luck with your rough sleepin” — “Keep me posted”
I replied and text back “Thanks mate” — “Will do”
Yes, a couple of weeks prior to today, I had decided it was time, time to experience homelessness and sleeping rough firsthand. To really address and solve an issue, my belief is you should experience it. Then from that, the learnings and experiences can then help, inform and shape the best version of the solution you want to provide, in my case bringing the vulnerable the best version of Beddown I can. So, after some planning today was the day!
I packed my backpack with a sleeping bag, roll-on deodorant, long sleeve shirt, my mobile phone charger and a bottle of water, we would have only the one backpack between three of us, so I made sure I left some space for the other guys to pack any of their items.
1pm — Time to get ready, my appearance for our immersion into homelessness included 6 days going without a shave, an old t-shirt, some ripped jeans (this would prove to be a wardrobe malfunction, more on that later), some old running shoes, and to finish the look, an old cap. I removed my wedding ring, this felt weird, I don’t ever remember taking it off in nearly 17 years of marriage, I put it in a safe place. I kinda thought, a clean-shaven well-dressed look just wouldn’t cut the mustard for this.
2.25pm — I gave my 4 week old granddaughter a kiss on the head, and gave my daughter in law a hug and said my goodbyes.
2.30pm — I threw my backpack into the car, I started the car to head towards the City via picking up the second member of our party Tom Long. Tom is currently a student at QUT studying Industrial design and also a contributing editor at Impact Boom, he has been an enormous help to me over the last month or so with Beddown and was super-enthusiastic about joining me on our immersion.
As I drove on my way to pick up Tom, I called my wife Lesley at work to let her know I was now heading out, she wished me good luck and we exchanged “I love you’s”. It’s funny how when you put yourself in a position of being totally outside of your comfort zone and vulnerable it’s surprising how powerful those three words become. I reminded my wife to keep her mobile close by and take it to bed as a just in case, something which is she is totally unaccustomed to doing. After my call to Lesley, my thoughts drifted towards the night ahead, what would it be like? Would we find somewhere to sleep, to eat and would we all be safe? I was thankful there was going to be three of us together. This wasn’t lost on me either as most people who find themselves homeless and sleeping rough, do so alone.
Prior to the immersion I had already provided Queensland Police Service the names of who would be joining me along with all of our emergency contacts, our intended routes around Brisbane and our safe havens if we needed to get somewhere quickly in case an emergency situation arose, we had two safe havens if needed. So, half of me was made up of a little cocktail of being apprehensive with a dash of trepidation.
I found my playlist on my phone to play through the car, I do have an eclectic taste in music and the playlist includes works from the likes of Pink Floyd, Missy Elliot, Coldplay and U2, so I turned the volume up, and tried my best as you do to recite the lyrics to the songs that were playing, it was a welcomed distraction. As I am writing this One Tree Hill U2 and Flash (yes that Queen classic) both come to mind. I warned you eclectic! This spurned the other half of me which was looking forward to seeing what opportunities we could all observe and uncover to make things better for the lives of the vulnerable. I turned the volume up on the stereo a little louder and seat danced to the music playing.
3.15pm — I picked up Tom and we headed towards Brisbane CBD to meet the third member of our party Howard Sanders. Howard is a chaplain and works with the homeless. Howard has been an awesome resource in introducing me to other non-profits and charities that help those who are vulnerable around Brisbane. As Tom and I made our way towards meeting Howard our discussion was primarily on the night ahead and our expectations.
4pm — We reached our final destination which was a building on Ann Street where we would park up the car and meet Howard, I threw my wallet into the glovebox, grabbed my mobile and headed into the building. Howard greeted us and we exchanged pleasantries, we all got caught up and checked in with each other. I had arranged with Luke Brown who is a Digital Marketer, he had reached out a week or so prior to offer his expertise and time to help us document the immersion, in the first part Luke was going to capture our thoughts and expectations prior to going out on video. Then we would meet on the other side of the immersion to document and capture our experiences.
5.15pm — Once we had finished shooting the first video, we made sure we had everything we needed and then headed out into the CBD. Before we headed out Luke grabbed some footage of us all walking out, we said our goodbyes, Luke wished us all good luck and we ventured out into the night.
In Australia over 8,000 vulnerable people sleep rough every night, this means sleeping on the pavement, on benches, under bridges and anywhere that is accessible.
Beddown looks to help our vulnerable by providing a safe, secure and comfortable place to sleep and a bed to sleep in, we do this by activating and repurposing under-utilised spaces in to pop-up accommodation.
“Everyone deserves a bed to sleep in” — Norm McGillivray
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