BY MEL SOMERVILLE
180 people from the real estate industry camped on Bondi Beach on Monday night, taking part in the Real Estate Sleep Out to fundraise for homeless young people.
By the time they put their heads down on the pillow, the group had raised $250,000.00, with celebrity Auctioneer Damien Cooley from Cooley Auctions leading the challenge with a whopping $12,278.00.
The event was as much about raising money as it was about raising awareness. All funds raised will go to Youth Off The Streets, giving disadvantaged youth the opportunity to turn their lives around and thrive.
Youth Off The Streets founder and CEO, Father Chris Riley, has high hopes for the future of the event and would like to see it “go national and become a really big thing, on different beaches, all over Australia,” he said.
Monday night’s temperature was a chilly 8 degrees and sleep was a long way off for Martha Willder and Barbara Marcinkova from Black Diamondz Property Concierge Real Estate Agency.No proper bed, a sleeping bag on piece of cardboard covering the sand, not a heater or electric blanket in sight.
It seemed ironic that the crashing waves of North Bondi were going to prove the biggest challenge of the night in getting to sleep.
Ms Willder was happy to be in such a prestige location, and amongst those who were giving back to an industry that has served them so well.
She said, “It’s giving us a taste of what hundreds of young people go through every night, of what it’s like for someone who is forced to sleep out on the streets.”
Father Chris brought along his Great Dane dogs, making an appearance at 8pm, accompanied with several kids from his Blacktown Outreach Program. The food van rolled up soon after, providing dinner.
This is a significant fundraiser for the homeless charity, a new venture for Cooley, taking the place of his annual Cooley Golf Classic that folded in 2016 after 10 years, having raised over half a million dollars.
Youth Off The Streets gets very little government funding but keeps adding to their services.
This year they opened two new schools, are about to set up a refugee centre, have a semi-trailer that’s going to travel between Aboriginal communities, and have recently put half a million dollars into domestic violence- and that’s all with their own money.
Father Chris has been working with street kids for 40 years, starting as a 21 year old, with his first appointment at Boys Town. For him, being a parish priest was never going to be part of the picture.
He founded Youth Off the Streets in 1991, offering care to young people aged 12-22 who were homeless, abused, suffering from addiction or in general need of help.
It has grown from a single food van delivering meals to young homeless people on the streets of Kings Cross to a major youth service.
“It’s not uncommon to see kids 4 or 5 years old roaming the streets at midnight trying to escape the violence at home,” he said.
“These kids have been told they don’t belong, that there’s no opportunities for them, they’ll make nothing out of their life. It’s about working together, sharing together, giving kids a pathway, making them feel they belong somewhere,” he said.
Father Chris believes it’s more a matter of feeding them and educating them, giving them homes and if you give them the basic human needs, these kids can be turned around.
“The work I do is more about values than religion,” said Father Chris.