About 100 to 120 people gathered at the Farmers Association Pavilion on Saturday night. That’s the same number of people experiencing homelessness on an average night in Albany.
Big Sleep Out, now in its eighth year, is an annual fundraising event run by the Albany Community Foundation that encourages people to step out of their comfort zones for a good cause.
About 45 people unfurled memorabilia to raise awareness and raise much-needed funds for local agencies that provide professional assistance to the displaced.
Their fundraiser generated approximately $38,000, with the Merrifield Real Estate team raising the largest amount as a group, $8,758, and winning the Wine Award three years in a row.
But it was 10-year-old Amari Nizam Wood who bravely shaved her head to the cheers of the crowd after hitting an ambitious $10,000 fundraising goal. The $10,453 amount made her the largest individual fundraiser for the third year in a row.
While it was great, the total fundraising amount unfortunately fell short of our goal of $50,000, about $6,000 less than last year.
Ashley Ismail, director of the Albany Community Foundation and expert support coordinator for Pivot Support Services, said this year’s results reflected the extent of the cost of living crisis.
“We are always amazed at the generosity of the Albany community. The $38,000 raised this year will go a long way and help a significant portion of the struggling families and individuals facing the housing crisis.” she said.
“However, while the amount is lower than in previous years, this is not only for our most vulnerable, but also for the housing crisis facing those who previously would have normally given much more. It is likely to reflect the
The evening also included a meeting with Pivot Support Services CEO Ian Neil and PSS Reintegration Program Manager Siobhain Scanlon, chaired by ACF Vice Chairman and MRE Director Jeremy Stewart. .
Mr Neal said the lack of safe housing for people struggling with addiction was a serious challenge in the Great Southern region, the only region in Western Australia without alcohol and drug rehab facilities.
He also denounced political disregard for areas where funding for PSS-like services has dwindled despite the growing demand for them, and said that his agency has been criticized for mental illness. It is estimated that the incidence of the disease has increased by 70% compared to last year.
“We are a barren land in terms of political opportunity,” he said.
Scanlon said it’s important to change how communities perceive the homeless, as only 8 to 9 percent of those who experience homelessness are homeless.
“In Albany, it’s the families who are homeless. They’re separated and sleeping in their cars,” she said.
“Nothing will change in this town unless we change the way we look at it.”
All funds raised will be donated to ACF’s Housing Crisis Response Fund. The foundation helps give and keep a roof over people’s lives by funding PSS, Anglicare WA, Albany Youth Support Association, and his four local agencies in Palmerston.
If you are in need of financial assistance for housing, or would like to donate, please visit our website at acfwa.com.au.