The largest event of its kind in Australia will see 300 students from 17 high schools across Perth brave the forecast showers and storms for a first-hand glimpse into the daily experience of the 3,000 young Western Australians without a safe place to call home.
The students forgo their usual home comforts, with only a sleeping bag, some flat-pack cardboard and the clothes on their backs to keep themselves warm, and nothing more than a cup of soup and bread roll for dinner.
Anglicare WA CEO Mark Glasson said by-far the most challenging experience of the night is the simulation exercise, in which the students walk in the shoes of young people, like them but who have experienced homelessness.
“The students are given a young person’s journey to follow, and face real-life scenarios such as trying to access food, shelter and financial support,” said Mr Glasson.
“They start out feeling optimistic they can tackle the challenges, but as they continually encounter hurdles and complications, the students become increasingly frustrated and disheartened. It’s not dissimilar to what young people experiencing homelessness go through daily, but the students get to go home in the morning.
“The students return home with a better understanding of the homeless experience in Perth, and also an increased empathy for young people, who are no different to them, except their start in life hasn’t been so fortunate.”
Youth workers from Anglicare WA’s Street Connect team check-in with students during the event and conducting debrief sessions.
The School Sleep Out also raises funds for the Anglicare WA Street Connect program, a mobile service operating in Perth’s inner city which receives no Government funding to assist, support and inform 15-25 year olds experiencing homelessness.
Students participating in the 2019 School Sleep Out have so far raised over $60,000.