Image for Vinnies CEO Sleepout | Live Interview with David Wark

Vinnies CEO Sleepout | Live Interview with David Wark

The Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a one-night event over one of the longest and coldest nights of the year. Hundreds of CEOs, business owners as well as community and government leaders sleep outdoors to support the many Australians who are experiencing homelessness. ( St Vincent de Paul Society, 2019)

Alex Ouwens and Nathan Casserly started Ouwens Casserly back in 2014 to help people of Adelaide realise their dreams and aspirations through property. To learn that approximately 6000 people in Adelaide sleep on our streets without a roof over their heads was shocking and Nathan is determined to make a difference.


This week, Nathan Casserly met with Vinnies CEO David Wark to discuss the importance of supporting such a great cause and explains what actually happens on the night of the event. 

Nathan: Vinnies and the team at Ouwens Casserly Real Estate have worked really hard to get me to volunteer for the CEO sleepout, which is coming up in a couple of weeks time, on the 20th of June, one of the coldest night of the year I’ve been told. I am actually looking forward to it.

NathanSo David, can I have a little bit of background on yourself and how long you’ve been involved with Vinnies?

David: I’ve been at Vinnies for about seven and a half years, and I’ve got to say, it’s the best job in the state. An opportunity to help people every day and interact with those less fortunate, and spend time thinking about how can we help make their lives be better or give them a bit more dignity. It’s a really nice way to earn a living.

Nathan: What’s been the success of the CEO sleepout? Why are you so passionate about it and why is there so many passionate South Australians in particular about participating in the CEO sleep out?

David: There are two ethics to it. One, the obvious one is the fundraising and that’s a really important part of what we do and to have the opportunity to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars on a one night fundraiser is extraordinary. South Australia has embraced the event and really got behind it in a remarkable way, and one that we don’t take for granted and really appreciate.  The other thing is that we get the chance to have influential people get together and educate those people with some information about homelessness they might not have had 24 hours before. Inevitably, those people at lunch the next day, or the next week, or whenever it is, will say, “Did you know this about homelessness?” or “Homelessness isn’t a choice”, or whatever the message is that we’re trying to push forward that night. Having advocacy is a fantastic thing for people that don’t have a voice generally.

Nathan: Can you give us a bit of an insight into the night itself? How many business leaders actually participate and t what actually happens on the night for those people out there who may not understand?

David: It’s tough. We don’t hide from that. It’s a tough night. People arrive feeling really buoyant. Generally there’s a degree of interaction amongst everyone around and a few business cards get swapped. That’s great. and we’re really happy with that.

Then we get the opportunity to tell people some stories and explain who we are and what we’re about, and some real life examples of people that have been impacted on by the sleep out, or by Vinnies, or circumstances not of their choosing.

We provide a meal from Fred’s Van which is a meal service that does about 45,000 meals a year, as people who would be homeless would have that night. Next, we have a big presentation and then it’s lights out normally between 10 and 11pm. We provide you with a really nice bit of cardboard then you get to sleep on the cement, in a car park in Stuart Street.

From that point on, it’s really difficult because most people haven’t experienced it and what you’ll find is that your ears never turn off because you’re just not sure what’s going on around you. An example of why homeless people sleep inevitably during the day because at night, they’re just not sure what’s going on.

During the day, when there’s light, they’re safer but at night, the vision isn’t so clear but your hearing never turns off. They never have a good sleep. So that’s why homeless people tend to be grumpy and also inevitably they’re hungry. If any of us went for a day without food, or sleep, we become a bit edgy and those are the sort of people we’re talking about.

Nathan: What are some rough numbers or figures that you understand in terms of homelessness in Adelaide?

David: Homelessness can be measured by a whole different range of things. Most people would think about homelessness as those people that are sleeping rough, have dreadlocks, and are walking around with bare feet. They are homeless but there are also people that sleep in their cars. There are people that couch surf. There are people that live at a caravan park, or in an environment where they’d rather not be. That might be a shelter or a crisis centre.

Within the CBD there are well over 100 people every night in Adelaide that are sleeping rough. In terms of homelessness, they’d be in the vicinity of 6-7000 within South Australia every night who would count themselves as homeless.

Nathan: It just puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? We sell houses in the metropolitan area here in Adelaide and in South Australia and we see some beautiful homes and we’re very privileged but to have a night sleeping on some cardboard, and limited food in the cold will be an exciting experience but I think a daunting one as well.


 Nathan & David (Sign) (3)

If like us, you agree that the statistics around homelessness in South Australia are staggering and simply not acceptable, you can help make a difference. Please support Nathan in the CEO Sleepout.


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