This year, Fortress founder Chris was fortunate to be involved with a great community event that raises much needed funds for our local homeless community: the St Vincent de Paul Corporate & Community Sleepout.
To be honest, I registered for this event after some pressure from my good friend, as well as to (obviously) support a great cause. So, with much trepidation, I committed to a cold winter night sleeping on Gold Park Oval in Toowoomba with nothing more than a piece of cardboard and a sleeping bag. The anxiety of a cold night (and bringing home the flu to my young family), drove me to wear plenty of warm clothes and be as prepared as possible.
I settled in on a brisk Toowoomba evening and was in very generous company. Ben Gouldson, a local lawyer from Clifford Gouldson Lawyers, bought a few items during the charity auction, including a lovely bottle of wine (that I was hoping he would share later… no such luck!) There was plenty of community and business support for the event, including Luke Brookman from Luke Brookman Electrical, MP Trevor Watts (Toowoomba North), Ashlee Adams (TRC and fellow Chamber of Commerce Future Leaders board member) and so many generous individuals such as the Bishopp Billboard boys. The night went quickly, chatting about our busy lives, our challenges and what are really our first world problems when compared to our homeless community.
I was surprised to learn that the biggest cause of homelessness is not financial misfortune, but rather mental health issues and drug/alcohol addiction. The trigger event usually snowballs and people end up couch-surfing, on the street and then formally ‘homeless’. I was amazed at the individual stories of hardship, drug and alcohol addiction. I was also blown away by the positive attitude of our homeless people. Coming from a loving home, I can’t imagine having drug addicted or abusive parents, but this experience opened my eyes to the fact that many don’t have the upbringing that I thought was ‘normal’. I was also inspired by the local organisations that assist, like St Vinnies and The Basement Soup Kitchen. We can and should do more to help those less fortunate, and it’s easy for me to have one cold night and think I made a difference. However, it’s these tireless organisations that really make a difference, as they give away so much.
Geez I’m lucky to be able to drive home to my beautiful wife, children and warm home for a nice hot shower and head into an airconditioned office for the day. However, it feels like I was cheating. I shouldn’t and don’t take any of that for granted. Mental health doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, your background, your social standing or how much money you have. And homelessness is just a series of unforeseen or unfortunate events that can spiral out of control very quickly. I will continue to take time to respect and care for those less fortunate. Homeless people are not different to those of us with homes; they are just down on their luck and in need of some help.
I will definitely be back again next year and invite (or challenge!) all of my Toowoomba friends, clients, business partners and family to join me and try and do more. This year I raised $700, next year, the goal is over $1,000!
Overall the event raised over $60,000 for local housing and to support our homeless community.
Congratulations Vinnies on a great local event and for everything that you do!
Written by Chris Black, Director at Fortress Financial Solutions.
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