RUGGED up in a sleeping bag and swag at Pacific Park, Sue Prosser is trying to catch some shut-eye only a stone’s throw away from her warm and dry Stockton home.
Ms Prosser – the co-founder of charity Soul Cafe, which provides free meals and support to the city’s most marginalised and disadvantaged – is sleeping rough for five nights to raise awareness of and funds to help the region’s homeless.
She has already helped to organise the charity’s annual fundraiser, Sleep Out For Soul, which will be held on Friday night in Civic West carpark, but wanted to go one step further.
Ms Prosser, her son Luke and their friend Luke Conners have slept on the streets every night since Monday and raised $3500.
“The first night was eerie – do you sleep hidden, or out in the open for safety?” she said.
“We slept with one eye open. It does get cold, especially in the morning. I get a couple of hours of sleep, then I’m in and out of restlessness. During the day we run on adrenaline.”
Ms Prosser said she was moved to act after a guest told her she didn’t know what it was like on the streets.
“I want to know what other things we can put in place to help people,” she said.
“I think it will bring out more compassion and empathy and understanding of what they’re going through.
“For whatever reason they’re out there, it would be really, really difficult.”
Soul Cafe was established in August 2003 and assists people in need of help, with many of the mostly male recipients struggling with issues of homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental health, illness, separation and crime. It serves free meals every day, except for alternate Sundays.
At the premises, guests can access a mental health nurse, doctor, podiatrist, hairdresser, legal assistance, Centrelink, group-based programs for addictions, gambling and narcotic abuse plus referrals to other services.
“They also connect up and help each other – they build a family.”
Ms Prosser said about 280 people had registered for Friday’s Sleep Out For Soul and raised close to $70,000, which the charity hopes to put towards a laundry service and more rooms for recovery programs.